May 4th. Known around the world as Star Wars day. But in a galaxy not so far away, two Somerset batsmen were the chosen ones at Old Trafford.
With Marcus Trescothick playing the role of the wise old master, young George Bartlett was cast in the role as his padawan (apprentice for those unaccustomed to Star Wars jargon).
Both made elegant centuries on an opening day in which Somerset seized full control against Lancashire. There was something of a passing of the force between the two, especially as 42-year-old Trescothick suffered a serious-looking injury shortly before completed his hundred.
It was the kind of injury that sparked speculation as to whether we had witnessed the final century of his incredible career. If we had, it was a joy to behold.
After play it was confirmed that Trescothick had broken the fifth metatarsal in his right foot, and any return later in the season was too soon to speculate on.
Improved weather across the country meant that the coin was tossed with much greater regularity and indeed it was at Old Trafford. Somerset won that toss and elected to bat.
Trescothick eased his way into his innings by feasting on a few short and wide deliveries from Lancashire’s star man last week, Tom Bailey. He raced to 19 from just 15 balls and would put on a 66-ball fifty partnership with Matt Renshaw – Trescothick contributing a run-a-ball 35.
Losing his opening partner did little to stem the glorious flow from Trescothick’s willow. Many of his runs came behind square on the off-side, Lancashire not helping themselves with the consistent lack of a third man.
His half-century arrived from 68 balls and he guided Somerset to a position of strength at lunch, with the score on 113-1.
Immediately after it, Trescothick was offered a life, Steven Croft putting down a difficult chance at backward point. Undeterred, he once again set about unfurling a series of glorious drives through the off side.
The partnership with Bartlett, 20 years his senior, oozed class as the pair eased their stand past 100 from just 168 balls. But, on 95 and nearing only his second century at Old Trafford, injury looked set to be his nemesis.
After an innocuous push down the ground off Matt Parkinson, Trescothick collapsed to the turf. Lengthy treatment followed and when he decided to battle on, he clearly could barely move his right leg.
Renshaw returned to act as runner and Trescothick found a way to get enough bat on three more deliveries to reach his 66th first-class hundred. One ball later he was gone, nicking Liam Livingstone’s first delivery through to keeper Vilas.
It was a classic innings from the former England opener, but his hobble from the field only increased the fear that it might end up being his last century.
If that did end up being the case, there was a kind of wonderful symmetry about Bartlett, 22 years his junior, also reaching three figures. His innings was filled with every bit as much timing and elegance and was crucial in ensuring Somerset took full command.
In his five previous first-class matches, the right-hander had only made a best of 39 – that coming last week against Yorkshire. Having passed 50, he began to open up a touch, lofting Parkinson over long-on for six.
One run later, Bartlett received a life when Shivnarine Chanderpaul dropped him at mid off. He made the most of it, marching on to 77 when tea came and easing seamlessly through to his century after the interval.
It came up from 189 balls, featuring 12 fours and that one six.
New England national selector Ed Smith was at Old Trafford. While it’s too late in the day to consider Marcus Trescothick for an England recall, even before injury, the way Bartlett went about his business will at least have registered with Smith.
Bartlett’s partnership with captain Tom Abell passed fifty before his innings was ended on 110. Livingstone was his undoing with a fantastic catch at second slip off Joe Mennie, to leave Somerset 294-4.
Steven Davies fell for 15 to the final ball of the day, with Abell unbeaten on 48, leaving his side in a commanding position on 321-5.
James Anderson went wicketless on his return to the Lancashire side, sporting his new white hair. Lancashire fans will be hoping England’s record wicket-taker can find his best tomorrow, to claw them back into the match.
Some might even be tempted to say, ‘save us Jimmy, you’re our only hope’.