Chapple and Richardson lighten the gloom
Lancashire 42 for 0 trail Worcestershire 334 (Moeen 78) by 292 runs
Neither Alan Richardson nor Glen Chapple were ever capped at Test level. But, even aged 37 and 39 respectively, England's loss remains county cricket's gain.
There is much linking the two. They are euphemistically described as elder statesman. Let's face it: that means by the standards of professional cricket, and especially fast bowlers, they are rather old.
They are two seam bowlers destined to be labelled 'workmanlike' by those who rarely see them. And, on a day in which rain, gloom and sheer cold might have put off many, both Richardson and Chapple were typically exemplary, mixing accuracy with enough late-career nip to induce OCD in batsmen constantly having to check the safety of their off-stumps.
Yet the differences between the two are, perhaps, even more significant. Chapple is a one-club man of the sort 21st Century sport is meant to have eradicated while Richardson is onto his fourth county. Chapple enjoyed early stardom in his career - he almost played for England as a 21-year-old in 1995, and was a regular on A tours in the mid-to-late 1990s - but Richardson has undergone a more circuitous route to success.
After a solitary game for Derbyshire in 1995, Richardson spent a few years playing Minor Counties cricket and could easily have drifted out of the game. It was only in 1999, at the age of 24, that Richardson enjoyed success at first-class level. He has continued his trajectory of improvement ever since: averaging 33 for Warwickshire, for whom he played until 2004, then 27 for his next county Middlesex, who he represented until 2009. But that season, he took only 11 wickets at 56: nearing 35, would anyone give him another?
Happily the answer was yes, and Worcestershire have been spectacularly vindicated ever since: 185 wickets, and counting, at an average of 23. Last year, Richardson even had the honour of being named one of Wisden's Five Cricketers of the Year. Fittingly, Chapple was rewarded in the same year, after leading Lancashire to their first Championship in 77 years.
Not only because he plays at Old Trafford and is in his 40th year, Chapple could be described as the Ryan Giggs of county cricket. And - like Giggs and indeed Richardson - he probably now needs an element of protection to ensure readiness for the biggest challenges. Lancashire and Worcestershire will be reluctant to do so but surely need to rest the duo from limited overs games to maximise their chances of immediate Championship promotion in 2013.
Although descriptions of their bowling styles inspires many of the same adjectives, Chapple and Richardson have subtly different virtues. Chapple has a smooth, rhythmical action and generates just enough seam movement to worry batsmen. Equally reliable, Richardson's action could hardly be described as smooth - just before his delivery stride, he shapes as if like a windwill. It is slightly ungainly, but what comes next isn't: able to extract more bounce than Chapple, Richardson can shape the ball both ways.
As they have edged towards middle age, Chapple and Richardson have lost a little pace but have acquired new skills - they are both adept at bowling either over or around the wicket. Richardson used this variation to trouble Lancashire's openers in a typically testing spell (8-2-13-0) towards the end of the day.
Chapple, after a first day in which his wicket-taken impact was limited to an athletic catch, claimed two wickets, including opposite number Daryl Mitchell for an attractive 74, to restrict Worcestershire to 334. They had earlier reached 315-6, thanks to a 96-run stand between Mitchell and Gareth Andrew, who smashed Simon Kerrigan for a six over mid-wicket en route to his 52.
The washout of the entire afternoon session, and the threat of further interruptions in the game - notwithstanding the use of floodlights - makes it likely that Chapple and Richardson's efforts will soon be forgotten as mere features of an uneventful drawn game. That may be true, but their career-long exploits certainly will not.