It was not pretty at times. In fact, at points it was downright scrappy and not particularly entertaining. But it’s equally extremely difficult to put a value on the knock that Haseeb Hameed played for his side on day two of the title scrap between Lancashire and Essex at Old Trafford.
He finished unbeaten on 85, batting through the day after receiving a life on one when put down by Dan Lawrence. It was a typically dogged knock and without doubt his finest of the season.
After a washout on day one, this was effectively the first day of the match and leaders Essex soon began to take control having elected to bowl first.
It took just three balls for Jamie Porter to strike, fresh from his 12 wickets against Somerset last week, as he had Alex Davies caught at second slip for a duck.
Sam Cook, making his Championship debut, bowled Liam Livingstone with a beauty before Dane Vilas was trapped lbw by Porter – both departing for seven.
Lancashire were 22-3 and had to start to scrap. In Shivnarine Chanderpaul they had just the man and he saw them through to lunch on 45-3, making 22 with Hameed there on five.
But the veteran West Indian would add just one more to his total before falling to Paul Walter in the second over after lunch. Jos Buttler and Ryan McLaren threatened to offer support to Hameed but fell for 13 and 22 respectively.
Hameed went on a run in the afternoon session, where he scored just one run in 54 balls, but began to look a touch more fluent ahead of tea – reaching 30 as Lancashire had made 115-6 at the interval.
Of the 300 balls bowled before tea, 250 of them were dot balls.
Hameed was central to Lancashire’s scrap and he went on to make just his second Championship half-century of the season, also posting his biggest score of the campaign.
His half-century arrived from 188 balls and took 244 minutes, but his occupation of the crease was keeping Lancashire alive. He found willing and able support in Jordan Clark and Stephen Parry, sharing 50 partnerships with both.
Hameed also surprised everyone at Old Trafford by launching Simon Harmer down the ground for six, shortly after Jordan Clark had become Sam Cook’s second victim.
Parry would also fall to the first delivery from the new ball, as Porter bagged his fourth wicket to extend his lead as Division One’s leading wicket-taker. But he had made an impressive 35 and put on 77 with Hameed as Lancashire reached a total of 222-8 at the close.
They earned themselves a batting point in the process, which seemed unlikely at one stage during the afternoon.
It was a gritty, battling performance from Lancashire spearheaded by Hameed who demonstrated all of the qualities that earned him an England call last winter.
He will return tomorrow unbeaten on 85 from 233 balls, as play was ended three overs early due to bad light. Hameed batted throughout the day and has dragged his side back from a position of real vulnerability as they bid to keep their title hopes alive.
Essex skipper Varun Chopra was impressed by Hameed.
“Haseeb Hameed played well,” he said.
“Conditions at the start weren’t easy. He was patient as always and picked us off a bit at the back end. He stuck to his plans well. Lancashire sides always do this to be honest.
“I’ve played against them many times over the years and they are a gritty bunch who dig in.
“We want to try and get our three bowling points first thing in the morning by bowling them out. Forecast isn’t great but we went out today to win, we’ve won in two and three days this year. Results are still possible.”
Lancashire assistant coach Mark Chilton was also full of praise for their young opener.
“It is great to see Haseeb still batting,” Chilton said.
“Clearly you can see more confidence in his play and his body language. That comes with runs. Confidence grows as your innings progresses and you become more fluent.
“Today, to absorb the pressure and movement early on, then bat the length of time he has shows his game is in good order.”