Luke Procter fell agonisingly short of his first one-day century in an eventful match at Old Trafford today
Gary Keedy made a return to first team action and Barbadian Kevin Stoute returned the second best List A bowling figures ever achieved against Lancashire, but Procter was the unofficial man of the match in his side's 53-run victory over West Indies A.
So much for "dull" 50-over, mid-season friendlies. The spectators who turned up at Old Trafford on Thursday saw Luke Procter show why he is rated so highly; they watched in delight as Gary Keedy took three wickets in eleven balls in his first game for three months; and they even had to scurry to their record books - oh alright, the internet on their mobiles - as West Indies A medium pacer Kevin Stoute recorded the best limited overs figures against Lancashire since Keith Boyce took 8-26 in a John Player League game on the same ground in May 1971. This was a time when Three Dog Night were No1 in the hit parade and Annie Walker ruled The Rovers Return with her basilisk gaze.
All of it was splendid entertainment for the modest crowd, but let us begin with what is surely the good news story of the day. Precisely three months after breaking his collarbone in a pre-season friendly against Durham, Gary Keedy made his welcome return to Lancashire's first team and took three wickets in eleven balls as he displayed all his metronomic accuracy and control of length. Brought into the attack in the 18th over by Paul Horton, Keedy took wickets in each of his first three overs, bowling Andre Fletcher, Kirk Edwards and Darren Bravo to knock the stuffing out of the West Indies A team's attempt to score 272 to win the last game of their tour.
Having delivered a first spell of 6-0-17-3, Keedy came back for a second when Imran Khan was attempting to rescue the game for his side. The 35-year-old finished with figures of 8-0-34-3 and was an understandably happy camper when he spoke to your lone reporter after the game.
"I feel pretty good," he said. "I wouldn't have got picked today if people didn't think I was ready to play cricket, and to play against the West Indies A was a stern test. It was nice to have a first spell of six overs and then come back and see if I could still bowl with the same intensity, which I did.
"I aim to play in the four-day second team friendly at Southport next week but I think if an emergency situation came around, I'm up to speed with my bowling and I'd get picked. I know I've got things to work on because I'm three months behind everyone else but if I got selected for tomorrow's t20 game against Yorkshire, I'd want to play."
"In terms of the injury I wouldn't say I'm 100%, I've still got a bit of pain there, but I've got my functional range back, which allows me to bowl and it's nice to get out there and bowl some overs. I've done all the drills but when you're out in the game, the intensity is greater. Some of the drill work I've done has all been a little bit staged so I suppose the real test will be when that first dive comes along. As far as the injury goes, they've fixed it good and proper, and it would take something horrific to do it again."
Well at the risk of sounding like a besuited, begelled advertsing executive, let's not even go there. Instead, let us salute Keedy's quiet determination to return to the game he loves and let us also record the fact that he was a key part of Lancashire's attack against the West Indies A team.
He wasn't the only successful bowler though. Daren Powell bowled an excellent new ball spell of 6-1-14-0 and he returned at the end of the innings to seal Lancashire's victory by dismissing Khan for a 63-ball 74, which included eleven boundaries, and bowl Lionel Baker for 18. From the Brian Statham End Procter bowled a tight spell of medium-fast bowling and collected figures of 10-0-34-2, his two wickets being those of Kevin Stoute, caught at long on by Kyle Hogg, and Chadwick Walton, who was lbw.
Others bowlers suffered in the wrath of Khan, but overall it was a typically competent hard-working performance by Lancashire, who were well martialled by Horton, leading the side in the absence of the rested Chapple.
The highlight of Lancashire's innings was unquestionably the opening partnership of 133 in 25.3 overs between Karl Brown and Luke Proctor. Given time to build their innings, the two young batsmen played fluently and confirmed that they are among the county's most promising talents.
Brown caught the eye first, unfurling an on-drive off Lionel Baker in the sixth over and cut off Gary Tonge in the ninth, but Proctor soon adjusted to the pace of the wicket, which had been used for Monday's t20 game against Worcestershire. The Oldham batsman produced a dismissive pull when Baker pitched short, and followed this up with a cover drive off Andre Russell.
The 22-year-olds were threatening to take the tourists' attack apart when Brown was caught at long on by Kirk Edwards off Anthony Martin, having made 56 in only 80 balls. Stephen Moore fell to the same bowler for two but the biggest disappointment of the day for the crowd was when Procter holed out at deep square leg Baker when he was only three short of a hundred (One of the nicest moments, however, was to see Steven Croft scurry after him as he departed and give him a handshake; some 97s are worth three figures).
Thereafter, the innings belonged almost exclusively to Kevin Stoute. True, Gareth Cross made 30 off 30 balls which helped Lancashire to reach 271 in their fifty overs, but the Barbadian took all the remaining wickets to fall and finished with eight for 52 from his nine overs. This is the ninth best analysis in the history of List A games. One's abiding memory of the pre lunch play, though, will be Procter's strokeplay as dominated the West Indies attack, hitting nine fours and two sixes, one over third man, the other over square leg.
Anyone would have been lucky to see Proctor's innings, but I was particularly fortunate because I nearly didn't get to Old Trafford at all today. Those of you who have mocked my travails with Northern Rail will be pleased to know that the service from Southport to Manchester wasn't slow this morning; for half an hour or more, it didn't run at all.
Apparently there had been engineering work in the Appley Bridge area overnight. I assumed this meant that some bright spark had hit on the idea that our journey might be a bit smoother if they actually joined the pieces of track together. Anyway, a maintenance train was stuck on the track. Before long, however, the Parbold Flyer was on its merry way and about two hours after I boarded the train, I arrived at Deansgate. Strange really, but at one stage of the journey I could have sworn we were overtaken by a tractor.
Paul Edwards at (eventually) Old Trafford
Photo: Simon Pendrigh
(c) Lancashire CCC Ltd