The unfamiliar feeling at Old Trafford on Easter Sunday, when Lancashire played their first Clydesdale Bank 40 game on the newly-realigned square, was given a surreal twist as a few supporters started to sing an obscure song that seems to have been recorded by ‘Rock Master Scott and the Dynamic Three’, and more recently the ‘Bloodhound Gang’.
“The Roof, the Roof, the Roof is on fire,” has certainly never been heard at the ground before, given the explicit lyrics that follow the title refrain, but it confirmed that the county’s new overseas signing Farveez Maharoof has already become an unlikely cult hero.
The majority of Lancashire followers were distinctly underwhelmed by the capture of the 26-year-old Sri Lankan seamer, especially as the club were at pains to stress that he was joining them on a cut price deal.
There was more chuntering when he failed to arrive in time for the opening game of the season because of work permit delays, and his selection for the following fixture against Somerset would have been controversial if Glen Chapple had not been forced to withdraw with a calf strain to create a convenient space.
Mark Chilton, who took over the captaincy from Chapple, then delayed Maharoof’s introduction until the 26th over, after both Tom Smith and Gary Keedy had been used as first and second change respectively, and although he asked plenty of questions in Somerset’s first innings, his unflattering figures of 0 for 40 from 11 overs revived unhappy memories of Daren Powell, the last overseas seamer who played for Lancashire – and also made a promising but luckless start.
But there was a first hint that Maharoof is a different beast to Powell when he took a steepling catch at mid-on to dismiss Charl Willoughby and round off the Somerset innings. He was mobbed by his new team-mates as he regained his feet with a big grin, and at close of play Sajid Mahmood confirmed that ‘the Roof’ was already a popular figure in the dressing room.
The following day, he provided spectacular evidence that an international-class all-rounder has dropped into Lancashire’s lap. They knew Maharoof could bat as well as bowl, but a 131-ball century on debut – only the third player to do that for the county in the Championship, and the first to reach three figures from No.8 since Chapple in 2001 – was beyond any realistic expectation.
He followed up by undermining Somerset’s attempt to save the game, dismissing Arul Suppiah and Nick Compton to reduce them to 42 for two, and sparkled again on that historic Sunday afternoon at Old Trafford, smacking 38 from 27 balls to rescue Lancashire from a spot of bother against the Unicorns, and then taking three for 33.
The only worry now for Lancashire is that the Roof’s form may alert the Sri Lanka selectors, and their new coach Stuart Law, at some stage of their forthcoming tour of England. But for the moment, there is plenty of time for puns surrounding his nickname – Lancashire plan a night on the tiles, No lagging for the Roof, etc – and a few more choruses of ‘The Roof is on fire’.