One glance at the Division One table would suggest there is little riding on Lancashire’s clash with Surrey at Old Trafford. They are two of the three sides who could not be relegated from the top flight ahead of the opening day and, with Essex confirmed as champions, it is essentially a dead-rubber.
But try telling 20-year-old Lancashire seamer Saqib Mahmood that. Handed a surprise inclusion ahead of Kyle Jarvis in the line-up, it gave the youngster an opportunity to impress and earn himself credit ahead of next season.
As well as personal pride and ambition, the winner of this match would secure second place in Division One, something that brings not-insignificant financial reward as well as bragging rights.
Add to that the fact that it is the last first-class match that Sri Lankan legend Kumar Sangakkara, who has hit eight centuries this season, will ever play and could be the last time we see West Indian icon Shivnarine Chanderpaul there is actually plenty of interest in this match.
The clash at Old Trafford began with a surprise, as Surrey chose not to exercise their right to bowl first under gloomy skies at Old Trafford. They instead chose to toss the coin, a toss Lancashire won and happily took the chance to get ball in hand.
Mahmood would then become the story of the day, clinching career-best figures of 4-50 as Lancashire reduced Surrey to 201-8.
Sam Curran’s half-century had guided the visitors past the 200 mark needed to clinch the first batting point, and Surrey promptly sprung a surprise by choosing to declare. Curran was the leading scorer in the line-up by some distance and was the main figure in securing that first point.
Lancashire had been terrific with the ball, taking wickets with regularity as spinners Matt Parkinson and Stephen Parry had particularly impressed – both taking 2-42.
But the day belong to Mahmood, and his four wickets included the prize scalp of Sangakkara just after lunch. The Sri Lankan had looked frenetic and fell for Lancashire’s short-ball trap, hooking straight down the throat of Rob Jones for 14.
He was left without the chance of claiming a maiden first-class five-fer after Surrey’s declaration, with Lancashire left nine overs to negotiate. They did so and will resume the second day on 17-0.
Mahmood was thrilled to pick up the wicket of Sangakkara.
“We had a plan on how to bowl to Kumar Sangakkara at lunch and to come out and nail the plan, I couldn’t quite believe it had come off,” Mahmood said.
“Great scalp. My first first-class game at Old Trafford and it’s one I won’t forget in a hurry. From a bowling point of view we couldn’t really have done much more. To get them to 200, the wicket looks like it’s flattening out now.
“I was so annoyed they declared, I’m on four wickets and every ball I felt I was going to get a wicket and they go and declare so I wasn’t very happy if I’m honest!
“We were surprised they didn’t choose to bowl with the conditions this morning. I was happy we were bowling first.
“It’s a one-off game and for me I want to stake my claim as much as I can and it’s a great opportunity to show what I can do to try and get in that starting eleven next year.”