Paul Edwards concludes his trip to the Riverside
There was, of course, a rich irony about the sight of spectators making their way out of Durham's home ground during the tea interval on Friday.
Towards the end of a match which had been plagued by rain - 153.2 overs were lost during the first three days - some supporters were leaving the Riverside when the place was bathed in golden sunshine. No showers were forecast and the weather seemed almost to be mocking the cricketers as they played out the final session of a very drawn game.
So what can Lancashire's players and supporters take from this contest at one of English cricket's friendliest counties?
Well, the batting of Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Luke Sutton on Wednesday afternoon will be a vivid recollection for many followers. Chanderpaul's qualities have been rightly lauded already this week, so it's only right to give Sutton some credit too. The Lancashire wicketkeeper has already produced a series of valuable innings for the county this summer. His unbeaten 101 against Durham took his County Championship tally this season to 448, behind only Ashwell Prince (450), Paul Horton (471) and Steven Croft (567), but it's not just the weight of runs Sutton scores, it's the situations in which he scores them that makes him such a valuable cricketer in the four-day game.
"Luke's been playing really well for us this year," said Glen Chapple after the game "It was a crucial partnership he had with Shiv and I thought he played extremely well. I think people definitely regard wicketkeepers more and more as all-rounders who are expected to score runs but Luke scores really important runs, it's not just the volume. He always gets stuck in when conditions are difficult and his strengths came to the fore in this game."
Another player whose strengths were much in evidence was Chapple himself. His five for 65 took his total of wickets in this year's County Championship to 36 one for every year of his age, he will not thank me for saying. As of late afternoon, only Yorkshire's Adil Rashid and Warwickshire's Imran Tahir have taken more. The opinion that Chapple is the best seamer never to have received a Test cap was enthusiastically supported by Jimmy Anderson on Thusday evening. "I think it's recognised throughout England that he's not just the best bowler but - and I'd class him as an all-rounder - the best all-rounder not to have played for England," he said.
Anderson had a curious match too. The England fast bowler got just the workout he needed on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday when his opening spell - admittedly, bridged by about three rain breaks and two nights' sleep - lasted 26 overs. He eventually finished with three for 74 and would like to play in Twenty20 Finals Day if a) Lancashire beat Essex in the Midnight Fandango at Chelmsford on Tuesday, and b) the ECB allow him to.
But I conclude with a question asked in the press box and a memory of another fast bowler, whose finest hour took place at Old Trafford in the century before last.
"Has anyone ever bowled a longer opening spell," someone asked, when Anderson's spell at the Lumley End finally ceased. "Tom Richardson," I said, with pretty insufferable pride, "Old Trafford, England versus Australia, 1896." We looked it up. In that game Richardson delivered 42 overs although I don't know how many intervals - lunch and tea - were included in his spell. I fancy, however, that the Surrey fast bowler bowled all his overs on one day. I was first made aware of Richardson's great bowling - he dismissed six batsmen but Australia won by three wickets - when, as a boy, I read an essay which I commend warmly to anyone brave or foolish enough to have followed these reflections to their conclusion. The title of the essay is, I think - I'm in Chester-le-Street and have no way of checking - The Manchester Test Match of 1896. I'm certain about the author, though. His name was Neville Cardus.
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