Phil Salt’s inning was a disaster. Lancashire led Northamptonshire by 156 runs with 498 for 7 (Bohannon 128, Wells 119, Salt 105, White 3-69).
If anything is going to help this game reverse a stalemate, it’s probably the black earth saucers at each end of the pitch. Batters are wary of them, while spin bowlers, of which Lancashire has two specialists, are ecstatic. They thought this morning that if our top order could develop a lead, we could frolic in the footmarks on Friday. As expected, Lancashire pounced on an attack without Ben Sanderson, Tom Taylor, and Rob Keogh when play resumed at Emirates Old Trafford three hours late and with 29 overs remaining in our quota.
Carnage ensued. Big fashion sense. And Phil Salt played one of the season’s best innings, striking a century that surpassed even Luke Wells’ and Josh Bohannon’s and reminding everyone, possibly including Salt himself, that his talents are not limited to white-ball cricket.
However, Northamptonshire’s injured bowlers have taken 39 of their side’s 108 Championship wickets in 2023, and the two sessions today demonstrated how much they are missed. It also brought back thoughts of the evening’s cricket at Blackpool a little over a week ago, when Dan Lawrence and Doug Bracewell decimated Lancashire’s attack. This time, though, it was Keaton Jennings’ bats that destroyed, scoring 377 runs in 67 overs and finishing the day with a 156-run lead with power to build on the next day.
Even in this day and age, such fast-forward cricket added to the evening’s unreality. The achievement of bonus points every 50 runs, big partnerships, and the batter’s own landmarks merged and passed with notebook-defying speed. Rounds of applause mingled together, as there always appeared to be something for home fans to clap about.
Salt’s second three-figure score of the season came on 74 balls.
Wells hit his first century of the season off 171 balls, Bohannon hit his second off 143 balls, and Salt hit his second three-figure score of the season off 74 balls with his third straight six to go with his 11 fours. Yes, there were many huge smashes, but what stood out most, especially during Bohannon’s 126-run third-wicket partnership with Salt in 19 overs, was the whippet-speed of the running between the wickets, as ones became twos if the fielder had to gain any ground towards the ball.
And, as is so often the case on such occasions, catches were missed, some more culpably than others. White had no choice but to throw his catch at deep square leg back inside the boundary as he toppled over the line, giving Wells a life on 78, but Lewis McManus had no such excuse when he spilled a very simple opportunity from Dominic Leech shortly afterwards. McManus was standing back, Leech was stunned, and Wells was still on 85, not out.
Ricardo Vasconcelos, the only Northamptonshire fielder to emerge with any credit from the bloodbath, grabbed an unremarkable catch to dismiss Wells off White for 119 and then a very spectacular, one-handed, diving effort off the same bowler to dismiss Bohannon for 128. But the loss of those wickets was acceptable collateral damage for Lancashire, but Croft took a box-splintering blow in the knackers from White and crashed to the ground like a lightweight on the end of a haymaker.
Salt’s expulsion, caught at deep square leg off White for a 77-ball 105, put an end to the mayhem. Bell was caught on the deep square leg boundary by Vasconcelos for 15 nine overs from the end, while Croft and Tom Bailey subsequently fell to Luke Procter, the only Northamptonshire bowler to consult his bowling numbers this evening, along with White. But those late-inning triumphs seemed to come from a different game, one far removed from the mayhem of a post-tea session in which 222 runs were scored in 35 overs and one even more removed from the sight of Salt hitting fours and sixes that even his batting partner was surprised at.
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