Lancashire v Nottinghamshire, day one:
Nottinghamshire 268-2 (Duckett 116, Slater 111*)
Home, but not home. Away, but not away.
‘Lancashire v Nottinghamshire’ was the order of the teams on the Trent Bridge scoreboard. The advertising hoardings appeared to urge those watching to pop into a West Bridgford newsagent and seek out a copy of the Manchester Evening News.
This was designated as Lancashire’s home fixture, moved to Trent Bridge to protect the biosecurity (a word none of us had uttered before 2020) of Emirates Old Trafford as an international venue.
But the home comforts were still Nottinghamshire’s. Ben Slater and Ben Duckett each hit hundreds to put the ‘away team’ into a commanding position on day one.
Slater, playing his first match since the end of a two-week loan spell at Leicestershire, started his knock as if he had no need to become boggled by the pesky business of playing himself in.
In a sense – having already hit a career-best hundred against these opponents this season – there was no call for such trifling worries.
From Gower to Lara, or in this parish from Sobers to Fleming no less, there’s something intrinsically glorious about a sporting leftie. Slater’s shots in the morning session bore this out with a flourish.
Through the on-side and off-side, down the ground or square of the wicket – the opener’s scoring was brisk as he rattled along to his half-century from 63 balls.
By lunch, Slater was 58 off 94, becoming a little more sedate – if no less serene – after Haseeb Hameed was lbw to George Balderson for 22.
The pace remained steady after the interval, Lancashire extracting control and a little swing under ever-cloudier skies.
But Slater and Duckett stood firm, the latter showing inventiveness, innovation and impudence to find any gap in Dane Vilas’ field.
Reverse-sweeps, lap-sweeps and wristy dabs all found the ropes, as the two Bens put on a stand of 178.
So swift was Slater’s scoring in the morning that it came a something of a surprise to see Duckett threatening to overtake his partner.
But while Duckett accelerated, his fellow southpaw nudged, nurdled and churned, content to watch the wounds he created in the morning session gradually open further.
111 runs would flow in the afternoon, and the pair’s race towards three figures continued in earnest.
Duckett slapped Hartley down the ground to move to 97, Slater scorched Bailey to the ropes to reach 99.
And it would be Slater who would reach the milestone first, a misfield in the deep bringing a beaming smile from the Chesterfield-born opener.
Four minutes later, Duckett joined him. That the leg-glance to the fence and celebratory fist pump all transpired in a single flowing movement was apt and befitting of the confidence, elegance and ingenuity with which the score had been compiled.
They were milestones which brought a range of reactions from those watching online, from the lady in North Notts scoffing celebratory snacks to the gentleman in Tokyo contentedly heading to bed.
While Duckett took his leave lbw for 116, Slater was happy to book in for more of the same, before an unseasonal gloom took the players from the field.
The ominous clouds and thunderbolts in the forecast may mean interruptions are a feature of the next few days.
But whatever is to come, Slater and Duckett had played out the first day of this ‘away’ fixture as if facing their mother in their own backyards.
With three days remaining at their temporary ‘home away from home’, Nottinghamshire have laid foundations from which to build, and how.
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