Liam Livingstone upstages Jos Buttler’s Blast return to power Lancashire home

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Derbyshire slip to opening-day defeat as Livingstone marries judgement to his talent

Lancashire 171 for 4 (Livingstone 94*) beat Derbyshire 168 for 7 (Reece 59, Parkinson 3-28) by six wickets

A few white-tailed sea eagles were reintroduced to the Isle of Wight recently and a similarly admirable project has resulted in the globally endangered large blue butterfly successfully breeding on Rodborough Common in Gloucestershire. We should not expect too much of these initiatives, though; your chances of having glimpsed either of these natural wonders over the last few years are still slight. But until today such prospects were far greater than the likelihood of your having seen Joseph Charles Buttler playing cricket for Lancashire.Buttler (Jossicus ipiellicus) last turned out in his county’s scarlet plumage for their Vitality Blast semi-final against Worcestershire on September 15, 2018 yet the view that he is a Lancashire cricketer in name only will be countered this week and next when he plays six T20 matches for the Lightning. The venues are far away from Somerset, his Heimat, but at least they will allow Buttler to reconnect for a week or so with domestic cricket.To judge from the reaction when Buttler came out to bat at Emirates Old Trafford this afternoon he will be made very welcome. The cheer that greeted his arrival was exceeded in volume only a few times this afternoon and one of those occasions saluted the searing straight-drive played by Liam Livingstone that ended the game in Lancashire’s favour by six wickets with three balls to spare.

In truth the home side’s pursuit of 169 had always seemed a little more comfortable than that, although their run chase would have been a little hairier had Livingstone been caught at deep midwicket on 55 when Leus du Plooy collided with the substitute fielder Mattie McKiernan when both were sprinting like students on a promise to get under a catch.

Neither was seriously injured but Derbyshire’s chances suffered grievous hurt. Livingstone went on to make 94 not out off 58 balls and batted with a perfect sense of his responsibilities. This was mixed with the fine strokeplay that saw him belt ten fours and snot a couple of big sixes, and on a day when nearly 4,000 supporters applauded one world-class cricketer in Buttler it was also a reminder that Livingstone, while a great talent, is also, as yet, an unfulfilled one; a player who, when he marries judgement to talent, could be a first-choice pick for England, even in the five-day format. It is up to him.

As for Buttler, he had a very respectable afternoon, conceding no byes in Derbyshire’s 168 for 7 and then making 30 off 28 balls before he reverse-swept Luis Reece straight to Fynn Hudson-Prentice at short third man. But the England wicketkeeper was only one of three Lancashire batters to share fifty-plus partnerships with Livingstone. Finn Allen marked his Lancashire debut by making 29 off 13 balls and putting on 53 with his new opening partner. And then when Buttler was gone Dane Vilas joined Barrow’s finest and saw his side all but home in a stand of 54 in 5.4 overs.

Derbyshire also made a substantial contribution to a game in which both sides’ fielding was not yet attuned to the pace of the short-form game. The visitors’ best player was Reece, who was also born in Taunton, quirkily enough, just over a month before Jos’ mum brought her son out to bat for the first time.

Jos Buttler played his first Lancashire game since September 2018  Barry Mitchell/Lancashire CricketIndeed, the first half of Derbyshire’s innings was dominated by Reece, who made 59 against the county he last represented in 2016. As is almost the norm in such innings, there were three sixes, the most unorthodox of them an outrageous switch-hit off Tom Hartley. Reece took heaviest toll of Richard Gleeson, whose only over in his return to first-team cricket after nine months out with a stress fracture cost 21 runs. Gleeson might observe drily that he had dealt with the fracture; now all he had was the stress.

After Reece had been given out leg before when attempting to reverse-sweep Danny Lamb, Derbyshire’s momentum was maintained by du Plooy, who made 34, and Alex Hughes, who contributed 28 to their 52-run fourth wicket partnership before both batters holed out to successive balls from Matt Parkinson in the 18th over. That left the legspinner with 3 for 28, his team’s most impressive figures, although in truth both Danny Lamb and Livingstone performed as competently, both conceding fewer runs and bowling at tricky points in the innings.

Though Derbyshire’s total was competitive it came at a heavy cost. When diving to complete a single Wayne Madsen injured his hamstring, a fact of which he only became aware when he attempted to get up and promptly fell over again. The sight of the Derbyshire batter being helped from the field does not bode well for his side’s prospects in this year’s Blast and it may also have more local consequences in this city; Madsen has been signed up to play for the Manchester Originals in the Hundred.

Paul Edwards is a freelance cricket writer. He has written for the Times, ESPNcricinfo, Wisden, Southport Visiter and other publications

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