County cricket

A triumph against the odds

With no money and no major home ground, Lancashire battled against the tide to secure their first Championship title in 77 years

Andrew McGlashan

September 16, 2011

Comments: 11 | Text size: A | A

Lancashire captain Glen Chapple holds the County Championship trophy, Somerset v Lancashire, County Championship, Division One, Taunton, September 15, 2011
Inspirational captain Glen Chapple battled pain to lead Lancashire to the title © Getty Images
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It wouldn't have felt quite right if Lancashire had ended their 77-year wait for the Championship title without a twist. So for those who have followed their campaign (and many previous campaigns that have fallen short) throughout, the sight of Peter Trego picking the final afternoon of the season to score his first hundred of the summer was par for the course. It left them needing 211 in just over a session, but given some of their finishes - for example, last week's win against Hampshire with four minutes to spare - a victory with five overs left represented breathing space.

Yet in many ways, the real twist had come 100 miles away in Southampton as hundreds from Michael Carberry and Neil McKenzie denied Warwickshire the victory that would have given them the title. They'll drink free for life at Old Trafford, and there are a few new stands that still need to be named, but on a serious note, whatever Lancashire did at Taunton wouldn't have mattered a jot if Hampshire had folded. Given they were already relegated come the final day, it was an impressive show of pride.

As the players shook hands at The Rose Bowl, Lancashire were within touching distance - less than 30 runs away - and this time it wasn't going to slip away. A few minutes later a county few had expected to challenge for honours this season, and who many had tipped to battle against relegation, were crowned champions.

What will make this sweeter is that it was a victorious campaign built in adversity. The club had no money for new or overseas players - the legal wrangling over the redevelopment of Old Trafford cost them at least £2million - and were, in four-day cricket at least, a team without a home (although playing at outgrounds, such as Aigburth, proved a crucial factor in success but only because the players made it so with a determined attitude to make the best of the situation). "Is this the worst Lancashire team ever?" was asked early in the season, followed by "Will this be the worst team to win the Championship?" as the end drew nearer.

How the players proved people wrong. True, Lancashire are short on "star" names but perhaps that is the key. Apart from James Anderson (whom they didn't factor into their equations) they didn't lose players to England and didn't have overseas recruits floating in and out for a few weeks here and there. Farveez Maharoof, the Sri Lanka allrounder, was brought in on a shoestring budget, and although he wasn't in the XI at the end of the season, he still played a crucial role, especially with his 102 against Somerset and his rapid 31 in the run-chase against Yorkshire

However, saying the side is short on big names isn't the same as saying they are short on high-quality cricketers. Glen Chapple is an immense captain, never better typified than when he bowled on one leg against Somerset. The 36-year-old Gary Keedy is one of the finest spinners never to have played for England. Stephen Moore was, just a couple of seasons ago, considered an England candidate. Simon Kerrigan has the makings of an international spinner. The highest level has passed by for Kyle Hogg and Tom Smith also, but they are at the top of the county game.

Winning the Championship is about striking a balance in a squad and also making best use of the resources available - however much that sounds like something out of a corporate manual. It's also about making some tough calls, which Chapple and Peter Moores haven't been afraid to do. Sajid Mahmood, who took 35 wickets at 29.85, didn't play the final two games, while Mark Chilton, a former captain, was dropped. That was because youngsters like Kerrigan and Luke Procter warranted a place.

Eleven who didn't win it

  • Lancashire secured the Championship title with a team few expected to challenge, consisting largely of homegrown talent. Over the years many great players have represented the county. Here are XI who didn't get their hands on the pennant.
  • Mike Atherton (1987-2001)

    Stuart Law (2002-2008)

    Clive Lloyd (1968-1986)

    Neil Fairbrother (1982-2002)

    David Lloyd (1965-1983)

    Andrew Flintoff (1995-2009)

    Warren Hegg (1987-2005)

    Wasim Akram (1988-1998)

    Peter Martin (1989-2004)

    Colin Croft (1977-1982)

    Muttiah Muralitharan (1999-2007)

The team were also greater than the sum of their parts. On the final afternoon Moore and Paul Horton squeezed past 1000 runs for the season, but a look down the averages will show that every player (apart from Junaid Khan, who played a single game) averaged at least 12, as runs came right through the order. It's numerical evidence of the "spirit" that carried Lancashire. Take for example Kerrigan, again, who scored 40 in the first innings against Somerset to take the lead to 100, or Chapple's 97 against Hampshire. How vital those innings became.

However, it's the bowling statistics that show where this title was really won. Kerrigan averaged 18.20 (albeit from just four matches), Hogg took 50 wickets at 18.80, Chapple 55 at 19.81 and Keedy 61 at 23.63. They were backed up by Mahmood and Smith. Bowlers win Championships, as Nottinghamshire showed last year.

Then there's the man behind the players. Moores turned down an invite to The Oval last month when England got together key personnel from their climb to No. 1 in the world. In the immediate aftermath of his sacking as England coach, and in the years since, he has shown complete dignity. This Championship title, to add to the duck-breaking title he won with Sussex in 2003, has proved that he is a coach of the highest regard. Don't rule out another dip into the international game, although it would be a surprise if he left Lancashire any time soon.

To sustain this success Lancashire will need to invest. Chapple won't be around much longer, and they could do with another top-order batsman. But they are a club that produces good cricketers - the second XI reached the final of the one-day competition - and it was telling how Moores, when talking about Kerrigan last week, mentioned the importance of the Lancashire League structure. "The school of hard knocks," he called it, and this team have shown themselves capable of withstanding a few of those.

Whatever happens in the future, this success will go down as one of Lancashire's greatest triumphs, and really, the whole season couldn't have gone much better. The legal battles to secure Old Trafford's redevelopment took time and money but they have been won. The club will find out soon whether they will get to host a 2013 Ashes Test - the vibes from within are positive - and further building work is well underway. And now there's one priceless addition to the new-look ground: a Championship pennant.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by bumsonseats on (September 19, 2011, 20:02 GMT)

at the start of the season, im sorry to say that i thought we would struggle, both the batting and bowling. maybe not relegation but at best mid table. when i looked at the teams i had followed for more than 20 years. but low and behold they pulled it off. a fews weeks ago when they were bowled for 80. i for 1 gave up the thought of winning the title. it seemed the rain gods had left liverpool this year and dumped its load in other parts. well done boys i had a smirk on my face for days. dpk

Posted by SDHM on (September 19, 2011, 16:58 GMT)

Both a fantastic achievement by a team and coach, but part of me also thinks that if Lancashire are genuinely the best team in the Championship, then the strength of English cricket isn't as great as we thought. With the exception of Kerrigan, none of this team will get close to playing for England (I think Moore was close at some point though, in his time with Worcestershire - I seem to remember him playing a couple of Lions games), and they relied very heavily on Chapple and Keedy. If anything you could argue that that makes it an even greater achievement - they certainly weren't fancied at the start of the year. Keep developing the side, get Old Trafford a properly quick pitch again, and go on from there!

Posted by Zahurs on (September 18, 2011, 11:59 GMT)

If Peter Moores is credited with being the architect of the present england squad, then i think india would be well off in appointing him as coach then fletcher who looks a spent force

Posted by LazloWoodbine on (September 17, 2011, 15:14 GMT)

No topic would be complete without a "Why haven't you included Sachin Tendulkar???", even though it'd be nonsensical in this case... Hehehehe. Congrats to Lancs, a team my dad always supported, and watched play in 1946 prior to returning home from the war. Think a few greats have been overlooked by the writer, though...

Posted by AlanHarrison on (September 17, 2011, 11:08 GMT)

Well done Lancashire, and a special word of credit for Peter Moores. I notice after the Ashes victory in the winter, one of the ways in which Kevin Pietersen tried to justify his conduct while England captain was that he'd laid the foundations for England's current success by forcing out Peter Moores (at the price of sacrificing his own position as England captain ... ah bless ...). That claim now looks even more hollow now. Moores is undoubtedly a good coach who has been shabbily treated.

Posted by mightymf2000 on (September 17, 2011, 11:03 GMT)

Anyway well done to Lancashire for winning.

Posted by   on (September 17, 2011, 10:18 GMT)

The XI who didn't make it is a little biased towards modern times. I'd have thought a certain J B Statham would be a more worthy candidate than Peter Martin if we really are looking for "great".

Posted by   on (September 17, 2011, 4:40 GMT)

This is bad.. VVS Laxman has contributed to the clubs success more than once and his name doesn't feature anywhere!

Posted by James105no on (September 17, 2011, 3:31 GMT)

People also forget the destructive West Indies fast bowlers Michael Holding and Patrick Patterson also played for Lancashire in the 1980's.

Posted by Nutcutlet on (September 16, 2011, 19:53 GMT)

And three to add to the list above of those who never played in a Championship winning team: the late great, Brian Statham (1950-68); Peter Lever (1960-76); and Ken Higgs (1958-86). All three played for England with distinction and need to be revered and remembered at this momentous time for Lancashire cricket.

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Andrew McGlashanClose
Andrew McGlashan Assistant Editor Andrew arrived at ESPNcricinfo via Manchester and Cape Town, after finding the assistant editor at a weak moment as he watched England's batting collapse in the Newlands Test. Andrew began his cricket writing as a freelance covering Lancashire during 2004 when they were relegated in the County Championship. In fact, they were top of the table when he began reporting on them but things went dramatically downhill. He likes to let people know that he is a supporter of county cricket, a fact his colleagues will testify to and bemoan in equal quantities.
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