The 77-year itch
After such a long wait, it probably deserved a book. Lancashire became outright county champions for the first time in 77 years in 2011 and Champions... About Bloomin' Time celebrates their glorious season.
Lancashire were tipped by many as relegation candidates, and there is a Roy of the Rovers element to this tale of an unfancied bunch of local lads defying the odds to take the title. The book encapsulates this spirit, and the cover photograph says it all.
Predictably enough for such a long-awaited achievement, the great and good of Lancashire have offered their congratulations. Forewords by Jack Simmons, Andrew Flintoff and Roy Tattersall, who died this month, reflect what this Championship victory means to the people of Lancashire and those who tried and failed to bring the title to Old Trafford over the preceding eight decades.
Between them, the authors witnessed every ball of the campaign, and their accounts of every day's play are recalled. The drama of victories over Yorkshire and Hampshire at Aigburth, and the clincher in Somerset, features prominently. The elation of the players is shared by the authors, and it takes the reader swimmingly through the book.
Full scorecards and action pictures are included, and quotes from the players in the aftermath of each match - allowing for an insight into the dressing room as the campaign develops. Every player is profiled in the course the book - in between the match reports, perhaps interrupting the flow of the narrative; but the profiles highlight the true team effort that took Lancashire to the title.
The coaching staff also get their own pages, as does chief executive Jim Cumbes. His profile and an article about the club's battle to develop their ground gives one an appreciation of the constraints Lancashire were operating under - no overseas players, no home ground, no superstars.
But their problems were perhaps a large part of their success, and Paul Edwards' article "For One Summer Only" reflects this. Edwards also provides a tip of the hat to the backroom staff, including scorer Alan West; an analysis of Lancashire's academy system, which produced a large part of the champion team; and a reflection on the Twenty20 semi-final defeat to Leicestershire in a Super Over.
"Maybe it was written in the heavens," writes Rev Malcom Lorimer in his epilogue. "Earlier in the year Manchester City won the FA Cup. When did they also win it? 1934 of course! It only happens once in a blue moon." Lancashire fans will hope this book proves to be anything but a once-in-a-blue-moon event, but for now, this neat, well-presented, easy-to-read volume provides happiness 77 years in the making.
Champions... About Bloomin' Time
Graham Hardcastle and Chris Ostick
Alex Winter is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo