Lancs kneel again at the foot of great Glen
New ball in hand, galloping into a stiff breeze, he lands his first ball with expert precision into that corridor of uncertainty. The ball swings away late squaring the batsman horribly, yet ironically making it appear as if he's masterfully avoided a bullet, Matrix style. As Glen Chapple stands and glares at the bloke with the bat in his hand, I can't help but imagine dubbing a variation of Liam Neesen's famous lines from Taken at that precise moment.
"I don't know who you are. I don't know what you want. If you're looking for runs I don't have any. What I do have are a very particular set of skills I've acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my team win now and surrender that will be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don't, I will look for your weakness. I will find your weakness. And I will rip your middle stump out the ground. "
When I highlighted Chapple as pretty much the Iron Man of the Lancashire Avengers in my first blog, it was admittedly with a more muted confidence than in years gone by. Shame on me, how dare I question the master! Glamorgan required a modest 153 for victory in the first of four games for Lancashire in May and the first four overs had gone at nearly ten an over, the fat lady was warming up. Enter the Chappienator. While Kerrigan took most of the plaudits with an exceptional spell of 5 for 32 off 15.4 overs, it was Chapple who took the prized scalp of Will Bragg. He had begun his innings at blistering speed, hell bent on finishing the game early. The significance of the counterattacking ploy adopted by Chapple is something you won't find in the scorebook yet it played a massive part in securing a crucial first Championship win of the season for the Red Rose.
Chapple's heroics aside, the two performances in May have shown a marked improvement from the team as a whole. Kyle Hogg, Luke Procter and Wayne White provided able support with seam, all contributing valuable wickets at crucial times. Hogg chipped in with a handy 3-for helping reduce Glamorgan to 242 by taking the key wicket of Murray Goodwin in the first innings. Meanwhile Procter was the pick of the bowlers against Essex last week, sending four of the top five Essex batsmen back to the shed in their first innings (Including the prized wicket of Alastair Cook).
In the batting department players who didn't perform in the first two games of the season have shown similar resolve with the exception of Paul Horton, whose form must be a worry for coach Peter Moores. Against Glamorgan, had it not been for the lower order adding a handy 100 runs in the second innings (with a resilient 47 by Hogg of particular note) a victory would have been out of the question.
Karl Brown finally blossomed against Essex, matching a magnificent 80 from Ashwell Prince in Lancashire's memorable chase of 253 inside 47 overs. His form is very important for Lancashire given his position at No. 3 carries extra responsibility with Procter and Horton out of form. To top off those two memorable victories, Stephen Moore and Andrea Agathangelou both scored centuries for the second XI, meaning competition for places remains a healthy headache for coaching staff and a worrying headache for the opposition.
The ecstasy that accompanied victories against Glamorgan and Essex since my last blog was warranted. But as Glamorgan and Essex discovered to their cost, the tides can change very quickly. Lancashire cannot afford to take the foot off the gas. Despite those two wins there are plenty of areas which leave room for improvement, one of those being the fielding. The amount of catches dropped in the last two games alone could make a good slow-mo compilation played to Charlie Chaplin music.
While Chapple's chance at international cricket has now passed him by, one player who is emerging as a big contender for the England shirt is Kerrigan. It takes a special type of spinner to take wickets which win games when the side is under scoreboard pressure. But it takes a Test-level spinner to keep an accurate control of line and length while taking wickets. Kerrigan has done that enough times for Lancashire to warrant his shot at the big time. His spell against Glamorgan was simply magnificent and exactly the type of bowling support Chapple needed. With Graeme Swann still nursing his elbow and Monty Panesar not getting any younger, it could be Kerrigan's year.
As I mentioned in the last blog May is Lancashire's most crucial month with the highest number of Championship fixtures. Now that we're half-way through it, the much-discussed momentum Moores spoke of last year has kindly joined the team. Only time and weather will tell if Lancashire can press on and gain two more victories to top off a great month.
I did say in my last blog that I'd be happy with two wins out of four. My appetite since then has changed and I'd greedily like two more please lads. Barring that, at least a recorded message from Chapple with the Liam Neeson speech would suffice? It'd make a great ring tone for all Lanky fans wouldn't it? Or, how about an Arnie style soundboard with the skipper reciting lines from all the old favourites. I'll pay good money to hear the Chappienator saying "Hasta la vista baby". Let us all hope that'll be his favourite phrase against the Hampshire and Gloucestershire batsmen in the coming weeks.
Rana Malook writes about cricket and music and once harboured dreams of appearing on ESPNcricinfo as a player until his back folded like warm laundry at the age of 19. He tweets here