Stumps, Day One: Somerset 153/8 (Elgar 66*) lead Lancashire 109 (Livingstone 68; C Overton 5-47) by 44 runs.
The first two weeks of the new Specsavers County Championship season have been notable for many reasons, one of which being the standout performers by some of the more experienced players on the county scene.
Shivnarine Chanderpaul became the oldest player to hit a first-class century since 1996, Kumar Sangakkara continues to show his enduring quality, while Kent’s Darren Stevens has been excelling in Division Two.
But on the first day of the match between Lancashire and Somerset at Old Trafford, it was two players at the other end of their career who shone brightest – and two players with genuine England hopes.
First to make headlines here was Craig Overton. The England Lions seamer, who only turned 23 this month, was responsible for tearing the Lancashire batting line-up apart either side of the lunch interval.
His first scalp came in the 13th over, when Luke Procter edged behind to Steven Davies to leave the hosts 35-3. By the end of the 17th over, Overton had three and Lancashire were five down with just 39 on the board.
Overton, whose twin Jamie was ruled out of this match through injury, returned after lunch to claim the wickets of Jordan Clark and Stephen Parry and claim his first five-fer of the season.
And then it was time for the second 23-year-old star to take centre stage. Liam Livingstone has been named as Lancashire skipper in the absence of the injured Steven Croft, and he certainly led by example on the first day here.
He had batted nicely, and sensibly, to reach 35 when Lancashire were six wickets down. When Overton did his damage after lunch, Livingstone suddenly found himself batting with the tail and decided on a shift of gears.
The way he switched to full attack-mode and set about demolishing the Somerset bowlers was quite extraordinary to watch.
His former coach at Lancashire, now Sport Director at Warwickshire, Ashley Giles said this week that Livingstone ‘hits the ball harder than almost anyone I’ve seen.’
We were given a demonstration of his clean ball-striking and raw power when he launched Overton onto the balcony of the Old Trafford pavilion to bring up his half-century. It came from 88 balls and Livingstone wasn’t done there.
In the next over he ramped Tim Groenewald over the keeper’s head for four and continued to play an exhilarating 360° innings on his way to 68 from 102 balls. His knock, and Lancashire’s innings, came to an end when he launched the ball high into the air and was caught on the boundary by Jack Leach.
You don't see this too often in the @CountyChamp…
— Lancashire CCC 🌹 (@LancsCCC) April 21, 2017
He had been a lone hand. Lancashire were dismissed for just 109, showing how crucial Livingstone’s 68 was in their effort. Only one other batsman, Luke Procter, reached double figures, and the other nine batsman contributed just 16 runs between them.
“It was a very interesting day’s cricket,” Livingstone said.
“They bowled really well and we just had to get as many as we can and get bowling as quickly as we could. We would have played a little bit better.
“Obviously we want to fight from ball one rather than 50-6. The lads have come back well but we need to try and get off to stronger starts.
“I didn’t want to take up too much time hanging around and then get a good ball that gets me out. I managed to get 20 or 30 quite quickly. Sometimes it goes the right way, sometimes it doesn’t.”
The day had begun with a rare occurrence at Old Trafford, as Somerset skipper Tom Abell elected to bowl first. It was to pay immediate dividends as Josh Davey removed Haseeb Hameed and Alex Davies for ducks, to leave Lancashire 1-2.
When Tim Groenewald joined Overton in the wicket-taking by removing Ryan McLaren just before lunch, Lancashire were on the ropes at 42-6. It was a similar position to the one they found themselves in at The Oval last week, where Chanderpaul’s 243-run partnership with Jordan Clark rescued the Red Rose.
But there was no Chanderpaul to rescue them this time around, as a hamstring injury ruled him out, and Clark was to play a wayward drive to depart for nine.
A total of 109 was disappointing for the hosts, and left them requiring a performance from their bowlers to match the quality of Somerset’s. Fortunately for Lancashire, they got one.
Somerset’s opening pair, Marcus Trescothick and Dean Elgar, started very nicely. They withstood an impressive burst from James Anderson and Kyle Jarvis to reach 42-0. But McLaren struck with just his third ball to get Trescothick caught behind for 20.
From there, the flow of wickets was steady, as McLaren claimed another two victims and Luke Procter struck three times, including two in two balls to leave Somerset 134-7.
Only Elgar offered any substantial resistance, echoing Livingstone in playing something of a lone hand. His unbeaten 66 guided Somerset to 153-8 at stumps, after McLaren removed Overton, meaning the Taunton side take a lead of 44 into the second morning.
“It’s been a tough day for us,” Livingstone said.
“We dragged it back well in the last session there. We need to try and keep it tight in the morning, take the two wickets and then graft our way to bat as big as we can and as long as we can to get a big score.”