On his second day at Chester-le-Street Paul Edwards enjoys the art of a master craftsman at work
In September 1993 the West Indies Under 19 touring team played England Under 18s at Trafalgar Road, Southport. The teams contained several future first class cricketers and one tiny batsman who was to become one of the best players in the world. His name was Shivnarine Chanderpaul.
I wish I could say that the Guyanan's batting marked him out as one destined for greatness, but it really didn't. Tim Mason dismissed him for 27 and nought, and apart from his size - he looked about twelve - there was little, apart from his batting's compact style, which caught the eye, and even that did not proclaim future stardom.
In fact, the home side got off almost scot free. The England Under 19 team, which included in its ranks Michael Vaughan, Marcus Trescothick, Glen Chapple and Gary Keedy were taxed for 203 not out, 22, 91 and 56 in the three junior Test matches of that summer. In 1994 Chanderpaul made 62 on his Test debut against England, and 126 five-day games later, he is still going strong. The power of the West Indies Test team has declined in those 16 years but Chanderpaul remains a master of his craft and unsullen art.
And a craft it is. Peter Moores was careful to use precisely that word to describe Chanderpaul on Tuesday evening, when his unbeaten 30 in 77 balls had set up the unexpected prosperity of Lancashire's first innings total. He also emphasised the Guyanan's ability to play late and the fact that his square-on stance became more side-on when he played the ball.
Then Moores talked about Chanderpaul's possible influence on the Lancashire side. He said: "There are so many overseas players who come and go, so when you get a player with Shiv's record, it's nice for everybody because you can work with a player, you bat at the opposite end, you talk with him, you see him play, you feed off him."
Does any of that sound familiar ? I rather suspect that coaches and managers spoke in very much the same terms of VVS Laxman. Now I know that there are many views about overseas players, and that they often arrive and depart with bewildering rapidity. But what I can say after watching Chanderpaul's 92 at the Riverside, with its tucks and cuts, its deflections and glances, its crisp pulls and deliciously timed square-drives, is that Lancashire's supporters may have a couple of months to savour ahead of them. The young players at Old Trafford may enjoy it too.
But if Chanderpaul and Luke Sutton have fair claims to be "players" of the day on Wednesday, Dave Measor's credentials should be examined as well. Who's he, you ask ? Well, he's Durham's groundsman and it was his responsibility to prepare the arena for cricket on Wednesday morning. This was no trivial task. There was a river flowing outside my hotel window last evening, which might have been very picturesque had not that casement looked out on Front Street. The outfield at the Riverside resembled a series of not so small lakes; the hosepipe ban seemed an exercise in irony. The rain, which had frequently been torrential, was still falling at eleven o'clock last night.
Wednesday dawned bright and clear, though. The town seemed fresh and newly-washed. On the horizon, the tower blocks of Gateshead could clearly be seen, even if they looked like part of a distant urban kingdom. And by 1.55 we were playing cricket.
Riverside reflections, day 1
Photo: PA Images