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April 7, 2014
Lancashire 77 for 6 trail Nottinghamshire 272 (Patel 93, Hales 61, Anderson 5-55) by 195 runs
Only 34 overs were possible on the second day of this game, but there was enough play to suggest that Lancashire's batting could be a major issue for them this season.
Lancashire were reduced to 77 for 6 by the time rain intervened, meaning they still require 46 more runs to avoid the follow-on. While conditions remain helpful for seam bowlers, this is something close to a second string attack for Nottinghamshire. Had Andre Adams, who has a calf injury, or Peter Siddle, who hopes to arrive on Tuesday having resolved his visa issues, been available, things could have been much worse for Lancashire.
This is not a new problem for them. In 2012, the year they were relegated in the County Championship, it was their batting that let them down. They passed 400 only twice in the season and only one batsman - Ashwell Prince - scored more than 700 runs. Prince was also the only man in the side to score a century at home.
So their failure to strengthen is a surprise. While the presence of Simon Katich helped them gain promotion last year - both he and Prince passed 1,000 Championship runs - there was little sign of improvement from the regular players, with no-one else reaching 750. With Katich retired, the burden on Prince who is now 36, appears excessive.
Help may be at hand. The club, keen to provide opportunities for their young batsmen, have yet to sign an overseas player and could call for reinforcements. Faf du Plessis, who made such a positive impression upon the club in his previous stint as a Kolpak registration in 2008-09, is one obvious candidate and would now be able to gain a visa as an overseas player.
But such measures tend to mask problems rather than solve them and Lancashire are, admirably, taking a longer-term view. They aim to provide room in the side for the likes of 23-year-old Luis Reece to develop into a high-quality player who could serve club and perhaps country for several years.
But, Reece apart, the lack of batsmen who have developed through the club's system is an obvious weakness and does threaten their Division One survival prospects. Karl Brown and Steven Croft, two locally developed players who were not selected for this match, do not have the first-class averages (26.32 and 31.29 respectively) to suggest they are the answer to Lancashire's problems.
Lancashire never looked likely to prosper in their first innings here. After Paul Horton, attempting to play across a full ball, was the only victim of a fine first spell from Luke Fletcher, Reece, with feet of cement, fenced at one he could have left off the decidedly slippery Harry Gurney. Andrea Agathangelou lost his off stump having left one that nipped back, before Prince was drawn into poking at one he could have left to present Jake Ball with his maiden Championship wicket. Ball, a rangy seamer, followed up with the delivery of the day, nipping back into the left-hander Luke Procter, to win a leg before decision. By the time Alex Davies' loose drive was beaten by another than nipped back, Lancashire were in something approaching disarray.
There is a little mitigation. Such early-season pitches magnify batting flaws and, had Glen Chapple and Kyle Hogg been available for Lancashire, it is likely that Nottinghamshire might have struggled to pass 200.
But take James Anderson out of this Lancashire side - and England surely will - and the county remains as overly-reliant on Chapple as it has for much of the last decade. And that, in turn, might have consequences for the coaching aspirations of Peter Moores. For while Lancashire's long-term ambitions are clearly to be applauded, it would be an odd situation whereby the ECB employed their new coach from a team struggling towards the bottom of the Championship and seemingly unable to mend a long-existing weakness.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: George Dobell
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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