Lancashire 337 and 247 (Vilas 85, Rimmington 4-42) drew with Durham 281 (Bancroft 77, Rimmington 52, Onions 5-93) and 194 for 6 (Bancroft 92*)
This day began with Dane Vilas driving Chris Rushworth through the off side, the ball skimming across the perfect Cumbrian outfield to the spectators at the Powell End; but it also began with swifts swooping and banking in the blue air; and with Rough Fell sheep, motionless on the slope of Winder below Canada Wood.
This day ended with Cameron Bancroft taking a single off Rob Jones to move his score to 92; but it also ended with the players shaking hands on the draw and with Bancroft receiving the warmest of ovations as he returned to the Knowles Pavilion; and with darkly beautiful shadows on Baugh Fell behind him; and with a series of fond partings after four days filled with summer’s green perfections.
“Farewell you northern hills, you mountains all goodbye,” wrote Ewan MacColl. “Moorlands and stony ridges, crags and peaks, goodbye…Days in the sun and the tempered wind and the air like wine / And you drink and you drink till you’re drunk on the joy of living.”
Yes, we have been spoilt; yes, we have been absurdly lucky. It is not only the farmers who have made hay when the sun shone these last four days. The cricketers have been fortunate, too, and perhaps it was fitting that both sets of players were content when they left Sedbergh this rich evening. Both Rushworth and Nathan Rimmington paid the ground and the occasion warm compliments. “It’s like a postcard wherever you look,” added Bancroft.
Rimmington had a particular reason to be content. He collected career-best match figures of 8 for 116 when he took two of the last three Lancashire wickets to fall this morning, but by then Durham needed 304 to win in a minimum of 79 overs. Few folk fancied their chances of doing it. Then fewer still were bullish when Alex Lees was bowled playing no shot to Saqib Mahmood and Gareth Harte lost his off and middle stumps when beaten for pace and lowish bounce by the same bowler. Bancroft then cover-drove Keaton Jennings for an exquisite boundary and we had lunch, an interval enlivened by bizarre rural conversations.
“How’s that lad, Anderson?” asked a spectator. “Not good,” we replied. “He’s struggling with a tight calf.” “Oh, I know what that’s like,” “Really, are you an athlete of some sort?” “No, I’m a vet.”
We drifted into our afternoon’s cricket and it began badly for Durham when Jack Burnham played no shot to the sixth ball after the resumption and lost his middle stump to Graham Onions. But the next 90 minutes belonged to the visitors as Bancroft grimly risked the possibility of injury by getting forward whenever he could, thus negating movement and at least limiting the impact of low bounce. Graham Clark was similarly obdurate and even some Lancashire supporters found fruition in the prospect of a full day’s cricket. Sedbergh has offered an infinitude of peace these midsummer days.
Some watched from the Evans End, where, on the public footpath beyond the ground’s perimeter, folk could sit on benches and watch cricket without paying a penny. It has been christened the Yorkshire End. On the field Lancashire needed a wicket and an attack lacking both James Anderson (calf) and Liam Livingstone (side) was flagging. Then a ball from Bohannon bounced low and took out Clark’s off stick. Five overs later, Onions, bowling round the wicket to encourage uncertainty about line, had the left-handed Liam Trevaskis caught by Jones at slip. Durham were 122 for 5 at tea and we looked forward to a full evening session.
Yes, we have been privileged. Yes, Sedbergh is a privileged environment but they have shared their wonderful facilities with the cricket community this week. And they have done so with glorious generosity. Cricket has mattered here for nearly two centuries. Take the school’s late 19th century “Cricket Song”.
If you’ve England in your veins,
And can take a little pains,
In the sunny summer weather, when to stay indoors is sin,
If you’ve got a bit of muscle,
And enjoy a manly tussle,
Then go and put your flannels on and let the fun begin!
Sedbergh School Songs, in which those lines appear, was published in 1896 and looks forward to Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee the following year. The subtext – maybe main text – is that of the cultivation of an imperial ethos. The illustration opposite “Cricket Song” shows Sedbergh boys playing cricket in the shadow of Winder and then men playing the game in some unnamed foreign clime with the Union flag flying prominently.
These days the school is more concerned to provide the counties with players. Harry Brook, Jordan Clark, George Hill all learned their cricket on the square where Bancroft’s resilience reached new heights this final evening. After Ned Eckersley played on to Mahmood he was joined by Ben Raine and the pair saw Durham through the final 22 overs.
Lancashire’s bowlers became provoked into experimentation, at one stage placing four short extra covers for Raine. But nothing budged him and nothing shifted Bancroft either. The West Australian batted for 288 minutes and faced 191 balls today. He has now scored 332 runs in his last four innings and though his form may be too late to get him in the Ashes squad, he looks like a Test opener.
The rest of us must soon shift ourselves this perfect evening. The shadows are now on Winder and their patterns change with every passing moment. There is brass band music playing in the hospitality tent: hymns and tunes of glory. The players are long gone and in half an hour or so the rest of cricket’s caravan must join them.
But we are changed. No one who has spent the last four days at Sedbergh could be otherwise. This little world and its perfect cricket ground will stay with us. There are children playing cricket on the outfield; there is drinking in the tent; there is new light on Baugh Fell. And enfolding it all is the joy of living.