FASTEST PROFESSIONAL TON? NOT SUCH A CROWD PLEASER AS A GOOD DRAW

Chris Gayle — like to see him reach 100 in 30 balls at a cold and damp Old Trafford!

Chris Gayle — like to see him reach 100 in 30 balls at a cold and damp Old Trafford!

Chris Gayle recorded the fastest professional ton on Tuesday playing for the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Indian Premier League. It took him 30 deliveries to get to this landmark.

Friday was the second day of the four-day division two match between Lancashire and Kent at the Emirates Old Trafford.

Guess how many runs Lancashire’s opener Paul Horton has scored after 30 balls? Give up? Two.

And when number three batsman Karl Brown replaces opener Luke Procter, he manages half of Horton’s run rate.

After 30 balls, he has a single to his name.

Paul Horton — challenged the scorers to keep awake more than No3 Karl Brown

Paul Horton — challenged the scorers to keep awake more than No3 Karl Brown

And by the time Horton has faced 66 balls — the same number that Gale required to score an undefeated 175 —  how many do you reckon Horton has scored?

Nine.

When the post-lunch rain relents and the umpires declare there will be 20 overs from 5.30, there is genuine speculation that Horton might reach double figures before close of play. He does. And then he is out for 15.

“It was one of those days,” said Gayle, reflecting on his record breaking performance. “I was hitting the ball really well and from the middle of it. I decided to slow it down in the middle overs.”

A Turner still life — colourful, but more action than county championship cricket?

A Turner still life — colourful, but more action than county championship cricket?

It was one of those days for Horton and Brown too. If they’d slowed it down any further, the scene could have had candidacy as a still life entrant for the Turner Prize.

HOW TO MAKE IT RAIN? BUY A CRICKET SEASON TICKET

If there is such a thing, my first day as a Lancashire County Cricket Club member is a spectacularly damp squib.

Buying my member’s season ticket puts an instant end to the mini heatwave which had breathed warmth on this wet and long-wintered island for a few late April days.

Sit down... read scorecard... covers on

Sit down… read scorecard… covers on

No sooner have I bought a coffee, sat down and looked at my scorecard, than a few spots of rain send the umpires and players scurrying to the new, red postbox styles pavilion, as the ground staff scuttle on with the covers.

Mercifully, this is a brief interruption, but sufficient for a general chorus of ‘here we bloody go again… another washout of a summer,’ to rattle around the two hundred or so optimistic souls who populate the semi-refurbished Emirates Old Trafford cricket ground.

On August 1st, when the third Ashes test commences, the crowd will be one hundred times bigger. And it’ll probably be raining.

Building work is still noisily on-going.

I suspect that the builders’ lunchtime will coincide with the cricketers’ lunch interval, and I am right.

Covers cleared, Lancashire resume their reply to Kent’s first innings total of 244 all out.

Two seasons ago, I witnessed Lancs win the County Championship for the first time in 77 years. And then last season, they were relegated to the second division.

Their first match in the LV Championship was a mind-numbing draw against Worcestershire, and this has all the portents of heading the same way. With a bit of luck.

By lunch, Proctor has departed, caught by James Tredwell in the slips off the bowling of Darren Stevens, and Lancashire have amassed 22-1, from 15 overs.

And then the rain sets in with a Mancunian vengence and that’s it until 5.30.

Now let me be clear about this — I love county cricket; it is a game which lasts four days and is punctuated by meal breaks… or, of course, bad weather.

County cricket is the DNA of the bastard son that is T20: cricket for people who don’t like cricket. It is not supposed to be exciting.

When play resumes at 5.30, Kent take to the field with the enthusiasm of caged puppies released to the garden.

They clap, they bounce, they yell ‘catch it’ when the ball goes straight from bat to grass. They appeal for leg before when it strikes the middle of the bat; they eulogise the bowler after extravagant leaves from the batsman.

“They have to kid themselves that what they’re doing is exciting,” says a philosopher behind me, “if only to excite themselves.” Fair point.

“I like the way they’re batting,” says a Lancashire member next to me. “You accumulate a score with everyone digging in and getting a start. Bat yourself to 450, no matter how tedious it may be and the opposition won’t win. This is the proper game,” he adds, “not that bloody awful 20 over stuff.”

You cannot, of course, compare Gayle’s effort in the Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore, to events at Old Trafford.

The Toyota Aygo — pace of a damp April Old Trafford wicket

The Toyota Aygo — pace of a damp April Old Trafford wicket

On a damp, cold April day, on a pitch with even less pace than a Toyota Aygo and more uneven bounce than  a paedophile on a bouncy castle, the ball is swinging, there’s no carry and conditions are very, very different to those in Bangalore.

But here’s an interesting  theoretical exercise: exchange Horton for Gayle and challenge the West Indian to hit a ton in 30 balls and 175 in 66 balls in these conditions.

Fielding restrictions and a much deeper boundary aside, the possibility is as remote as a hot summer. And in any case, would the crowd of around 220 really appreciate it?

That sort of stuff isn’t what county cricket is about.

But who needs excitement? What will really please the crowd is a damned good draw.

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