Tom Abell and Co. unabashed by challenge of victory push despite Daryl Mitchell tons

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Somerset361 and 114 for 3 (Abell 48, Lammonby 40*) lead Lancashire 326 (Mitchell 105, Balderson 71, Overton 4-52, Henry 4-73) by 149 runs

They know about foreign cricketers at Old Trafford. They saw some of the very best of the bunch half a century and more ago and they saw them before the practice of signing foreign players for a season or two became common in the English game. But they have also seen some sleazeballs fly in and take their money without making any discernible contribution to Lancashire cricket.

So when Daryl Mitchell took three Somerset wickets from 13 tight overs on Friday, the cognoscenti in the old pavilion were impressed, even if they reserved most of their final verdict on the New Zealander. A little less of that judgment is withheld on this evening of long shadows, however, as Mitchell has become only the ninth Lancashire cricketer to make his first-class debut in a century. And a bit was removed when the new centurion turned and acknowledged the enthusiastic applause of the members, a habit one or two homegrown players should learn.

A few Somerset cricketers also congratulated Mitchell, although his innings of 105 had done more than anything to blunt the always formidable threat from Craig Overton and Matt Henry, limiting the visitors’ lead to 35 on a pitch that was was not noticeably full of devil. But there were still at least two points in the game of the day as Somerset threatened to dominate this game without ever taking the wickets that would have confirmed the fact.

But if beaten by Mitchell, Tom Abell’s cricketers were unabashed by the challenge of forcing a win and in the last 28.2 overs of the day went through to 114 for 3, with the skipper particularly dynamic was into making a 63 ball. 48 including seven fours. However, Abell was bowled trying to turn over a straight from Tom Hartley and the last over of the day brought another success for Lancashire as George Bartlett was bowled for 12 by a fine ball from Saqib Mahmood.

Either early wickets for Lancashire or quick runs followed by an enterprising statement from Somerset could still produce a positive result on the final afternoon, although none of the above are suspected to follow. Still, that’s a loveless thought at the end of the sort of day when one realizes the cricket season has really arrived. Gorse Hill Park sang in its verdant wonder this morning and the Old Trafford stewards, who are a rather cheerful bunch these days, showed an even sunnier welcome smile. Perhaps it’s also unfair to the cricketers, whose efforts have produced three fluctuating days, an arm-wrestle to be sure, but at least one in which neither team has sunk to the horizontal so far.

This morning, for example, Overton cleared Will Williams and Steven Croft before the first Palo Cortado had slipped in the 1864 suite and George Balderson just before lunch, when Lancashire’s deficit was 202, trailed for a fine 71. But this was a day whereupon Somerset’s bowlers were refused, not only by Mitchell but also by some of the new generation of Lancastrians, cricketers who will soon be pushing their seniors to places in the side once everyone is available.

For while Croft and Dane Vilas contributed just 22 runs to the cause, George Bell and Hartley shared 57 and 89 stands with Mitchell respectively, with both partnerships far more than announcements of promise. Bell in particular showed that while many young cricketers struggle to adapt to championship cricket, there are those who go to the county game with a receptive shrug of the shoulders. Over the past season and this season, Somerset’s James Rew has shown himself to be in that group and today Bell has provided further proof, in just his seventh first-class game, that he is also one of them. The shot he played to get out could appear on the front of Fishing times but by then Bell had made 38 polished runs and shared the stands with Mitchell, ultimately ruling out the probably slim possibility of Lancashire being asked to follow.

Perhaps encouraged by the quality of this support, Mitchell continued to invest every shot with total dedication. He swept or back-flicked the length and hit the ground forcefully, taking a big stride to pitch the ball and often lifting his drive well over the inner ring of fielders. So far over in the case of two boundaries from Josh Davey and Kasey Aldridge that the ball also went over the rope.

Behind these showier efforts, Mitchell’s defensive blows were devoid of flourish, but carefully stacked. He reached his century with a deliberate third-man lead over Henry, but his compatriot quickly applied the best salve to all wounds, first by having Hartley caught on a deep square leg for 47 and then by kicking Mitchell four balls later. remove, snapped by Tom Lammonby at midwicket when he tries to draw. With James Anderson available for nothing more than the team talk in the morning, Lancashire’s innings ended at 326. Somehow that seemed like a bad payoff for Overton, whose figures of 4 for 52 from 22 overs reflected his well-aimed aggression.

Paul Edwards is a freelance cricket writer. He has written for the TimeESPN cricinfo, Delete, Southport visit and other publications

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