That’s (not) Entertainment

"no one could argue that this Emirates Old Trafford pitch is not fit for purpose."

County Championship Division 1, Old Trafford, Day 3, 6th May 2018 -Somerset 429 Bartlett (110, Trescothick 100, Abell 99) and 51-0 trail Lancashire 492 by 12 runs

Somerset have realistically to bat for two sessions to secure the draw that, from the first morning this surface has destined. Oh this surface!

It is probably as good a time as any to dive into the murky waters of pitch preparation, waters that are even murkier for anyone of a Somerset persuasion. But who cares.

For county championship cricket to prosper, it needs to be entertaining. Not the wham-bam almost instant gratification of T20 cricket entertainment but entertaining all the same.

To provide the players with the best chance of delivering what the paying spectator desires it is incumbent upon the counties to prepare surfaces that are fit for purpose.

We could spend a long time debating the rights and wrongs of pitch preparation here, indeed many have and continue to do so. But no one could argue that this Emirates Old Trafford pitch is not fit for purpose. The balance between bat and ball is too skewed in favour of the former.

Somerset’s attack comprises four international class bowlers, Lancashire’s batting is not the strongest in the country. And yet here Somerset could make little impression on the home line-up for the bulk of the day.

There were two occasions when Somerset might have sensed an opportunity. The first before lunch when, after Jennings had departed for 109 Chanderpaul and Croft fell cheaply. Although Vilas was blossoming by then the deficit was still exactly 100. 

But even the most optimistic Somerset supporter would have sensed that it was a tall order to set the game up from here. Not only did Somerset need to take a further four wickets but then bat into a position with enough of a lead and time to force a win. That was an unsolvable equation for any side on this pitch.

Vilas churned on into the afternoon and, in the company of Jordan Clark, took the total to 431 shortly before tea. At this point the Somerset skipper produced the remarkable feat (doubly so in these conditions) of taking four wickets in the space of two overs including three in five balls. 

Lancashire were now 14 runs ahead with one wicket remaining.

Tea was delayed, but Vilas and Matt Parkinson survived and, post-parkin prospered as they added a further 49. The last man’s contribution to this alliance was a mere 9, but it was typical of the whole Lancashire innings. Jennings, Vilas and Clark accrued 394 of the 452 scored off the bat. This Lancashire line up is the definition of fragile.

Somerset were left a tricky 18 over spell but Matt Renshaw and Steven Davies (deputising for Marcus Trescothick) saw their side through to the close with minimal alarm.

The fourth day promises little beyond going through the motions.