Durham 199 for 5 (Bancroft 77) trail Lancashire 337 (Vilas 74, Rimmington 4-74) by 138 runs
Cricket mattered very much at Sedbergh long before Lancashire contemplated playing here. It mattered even before the Ashes were a mischievous gleam in the eye of a Melbourne lady. And it therefore mattered well over a century before James Anderson brought one back off the seam to bowl Cameron Bancroft for 77 at 4.50pm on this second afternoon.
Yet Anderson's success, which he celebrated with a due degree of riotous joy, took its place in the honourable history of a ground on which many fine cricketers have played and celebrated. And it also reminded some spectators that the next Ashes battle begins at Edgbaston in almost exactly a month's time.
As so often in cricket a personal duel took its place within the context of a match and also extended more widely towards a future international contest. Plainly it is very doubtful whether Bancroft will make the Australian squad for that series but England v Australia requires no particular encouragement. The Howgill Fells have not seen anything like this.
For the moment, of course, Anderson's priority is his county. He was pleased to take two of the three Durham wickets which fell on 136 and rather destroyed the visitors' relatively serene pursuit of the home side's first-innings total of 337. That pursuit was all the more surprising in that it featured an opening stand of 70 between Bancroft and Alex Lees, who both profited from the waywardness of Graham Onions' new-ball spell from the Evans End. The Durham openers' partnership was their county's highest since April 8; indeed it was the only one that has exceeded 14 in 12 attempts. The odds on either Anderson or Onions making an early breakthrough were therefore very short but Saqib Mahmood took the first wicket when Lees' horrendously cramped pull only skied the ball to Anderson at mid-off.
But rather than sparking a collapse - Durham's season has not been short of them - Lees' departure was the prelude to Bancroft and Gareth Harte redoubling their efforts and putting on a further 66 runs for the second wicket before Lancashire enjoyed by far their best period of a fluctuating day. First Onions swung one in to bowl Harte for 14; next ball Anderson cleaned up Bancroft, an echo of their duels in the Ashes series 18 months ago.
In the next over Anderson had Graham Clark leg before wicket, thereby taking his 950th first-class wicket. Once again, there was the typical outburst of joy from a bowler who has devoted much of his professional life to his craft and who wears his supreme ability rather lightly. Having taken his 950th wicket, he turned his attention to taking his 951st, although that must wait until at least Tuesday.
"I knew I was closing in on 950 because the lads are winding Glen Chapple up about me getting close to his number of wickets ," said Anderson. "I think I remember my first wicket - it was Ian Ward caught behind by Warren Hegg but it was a long time ago! I'm happy to have got to where I am at but it is not something I'm that fussed about. It's about focusing on the moment and trying to do a job for the team - if I bowl well the wickets will look after themselves."
For their part, Jack Burnham and Liam Trevaskis knew if they batted well, the runs would come and this they did throughout much of the rest of the evening session. Spectators who missed their early shuttle buses to Oxenholme station in the expectation that the Lancashire seamers would run amok were disappointed and had to be content with the sun racing across Baugh Fell and all the greens in creation dancing across the slopes of Winder and Crook, the fells at the Evans End. They were not short-changed.
The final wicket of the day was taken by Liam Livingstone, who had Jack Burnham caught at slip for 26 three overs before the close. Durham are 138 runs in arrears but have five wickets in hand. We thus seem set for a close contest, one that will honour the enormous effort of the people in this corner of Cumbria to put on a show worthy of players like Anderson and Bancroft. A day which had begun with Lancashire's last five wickets adding only 62 runs to their overnight total ended in the gentle expectation of more fine cricket on day three. Few who have watched this game think themselves anything but deeply fortunate to have done so.