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Why Lancashire are worthy champions

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Kevin Howells | 11:10 UK time, Friday, 16 September 2011

Congratulations Lancashire. Writing the morning after they won the Championship, I'm thinking back to what took place at the end of their victory in Taunton.

Malcolm Lorimer, the club chaplain and historian, was bursting with pride and happiness. As he and I were standing on the Somerset ground surrounded by supporters, players and coaches celebrating he said: "Those 77 years are tangible". He was right. 

As the Blackpool and Bolton lads Steven Croft and Karl Brown saw them home, the players did all the expected things - singing,  jumping and hugging one another.

It was done with smiling faces but the eyes told a different story. One of shock.

Some were tearful, such as director of cricket Mike Watkinson and Gary Keedy. Several of them had tasted defeat and misery too often before and came across as dignified winners from whom the millstone was lifted.

Glen Chapple is a greatly talented all-round cricketer. He is also one of the hardest working. His performance in that final match with such a serious hamstring injury is beyond the understanding of an sidelines observer like myself.

Much is rightly made of the young nature of the side but that collective who have come through the ranks of the second XI together needed the experience of the skipper, along with Keedy, Saj Mahmood, Mark Chilton and, on occasions, James Anderson.

Sri Lankan Farveez Maharoof made himself a popular signing. Kyle Hogg showed us what we've missed through injury and was able to perform on surfaces and grounds which better suited him.

Stephen Moore is one very talented batsman who scored vital runs, none more so than in the last two weeks of the campaign.

Lancashire captain Glen Chapple

Glen Chapple led Lancashire to their first outright County Championship win since 1934

This Championship-winning success owes something to playing away from Manchester but I only have to think back to the Roses match in Leeds and the sheer nerve and application they produced there to be convinced that the story does not belong to the outgrounds.

It belongs to a squad of players with good guidance who can progress from here and do it again.     

I can't feel too sorry for Warwickshire. Twelve months ago they were all but relegated. To enter the final day this year as the favourites to become champions deserves a trophy in itself.

They need another batsman and another spinner, but even accounting for the likely loss of Chris Woakes more often next season, to speak now of a developing squad of players is not paying lip service to their chances of being in the mix again next September.

Durham were too inconsistent in the later stages to be too miffed about their third position. Short of another good seam bowler and maybe some stronger batting long term, they are moving in the right direction and Mark Stoneman was encouraging this time.

If the pre-season pundits by and large failed to spot the eventual top two, then the predictions of Durham imploding in the north east were way off the mark.

It's pleasing to see a descending number wins from top to bottom as well. For the champions, 10 victories in 16 matches is good going.

Worcestershire can be excused if they fancy picking up a couple more draws next season, or they can continue to keep us all on our toes. They took the idea of crazy cricket to new extremes at times.

I wonder if they might look at Lancashire and believe they might turn their group of local lads into something similar. Some additions would be required but they were as competitive as most for all bar two or three hours in nearly every game they played.

It was a difficult year for Sussex, who like Worcestershire, can feel very satisfied with staying up.

Somerset missed Zander de Bruyn and this time they couldn't recover as well from a poor start as they they did in 2010. Supporters in the south west are concerned that unless a couple of experienced players, ideally all-rounders, are brought in next year it might be a struggle.

Outgoing champions Nottinghamshire need runs. Michael Lumb is signed and Alex Hales should be around for another season at least before he gets heavily involved with England.

If bowler Luke Fletcher gets his head down as, for example, Ben Stokes did last winter, 2012 could be the year for him to really move on.
Yorkshire's demise is something else. Their chairman Colin Graves, who having become the life support machine of the club, has every right to say what he wants and where he wants about it, and indeed he has.

I don't doubt the players have let them down but I wrote before the season began that international disruptions could be key and a good start was essential.

They didn't get it, and I agree with Ryan Sidebottom when he mentioned the early defeat by Nottinghamshire as being key.

As then champions Notts were tough opponents, but Yorkshire got into position to win that game in Leeds and the panic button was pressed.

They needed more 'know how' out on the park and they were short of a steady 'been there, done that' character when things started to fold. To underestimate the challenge to come back up will be an even bigger mistake.

Hampshire's end-of-season run in losing one match in eight must be a real sickner at The Rose Bowl.

I'm starting to see that the end of one season can have a big impact on the start of the next no matter the six months in between and they will come straight back up. Jimmy Adams looks a good captain in the making.

Lack of time means I get to see vey little second division cricket but I would imagine both Middlesex and Surrey will provide new tough opposition to the top flight, which in turn could mean an even closer, more unpredictable season. No, no, and please again, no. I can't take much more of this.  


  • Comment number 1.

    WHAT a season!!! You quite rightly mention that match at Headingly and of course the reverse fixture at Southport was equally as absorbing. I will be first to say i gave us little chance of challenging at the start of the season but every single one of the lads has produced a match winning performance this season!!

    Long may it continue, the best thing (for Lancs anyway) is I can't see a single one of them being called up to the England fringe. Kerrigan and Moore may make the Lions squad but that shouldn't put them out of too many matches next year.

    I'm disappointed Yorkshire went down to be honest as there's no roses match to look forward to next year and possibly a few more after that!!

    But anyway Oh Lanky Lanky...............

  • Comment number 2.

    Never tought this day would come still hasn't quite sunk managed to listen to comentry on Radio Lancashire while out rambling must adit I had a tear in my eye when the wining run was hit delighted for Gary Keedy and Glen Chapple more than anyone oh lanky lanky

  • Comment number 3.

    Congratulations to Lancs seeing a new name on the trophy and one of a team that was written-off at the beginning keeps the title wide open.

    Across both divisions the superstar (or mercenary) cricketer depending on your point of view seems to be consigned to the T20 competition and long may it continue that way.

    Home grown talent is and should always be the way forward it can only benefit our national team in the long-term.

  • Comment number 4.

    Must be a great day to be a Lancastrian not only do you get your hand on the trophy but you get to watch Yorkshire go down as well. I must admit to supporting Warwickshire in yesterdays proceedings but that's more bitterness from last years attempt by Lancs to stop Notts winning the championship.

    As a ciderman we must still wait for that illusive first Championship. Somerset have mainly be hampered by their poor start to the season but have been hampered throughout by players missing. Thomas at the IPL and then injured, Kartik IPL and injured, Trecothick injured on the home stretch, Compton injured on the home stretch, Kieswetter on England duty on the home stretch.

    That's five sure starters not playing at key points of the season I don't think it's a lack of all-rounders causing the issue. I think it's general lack of depth and to be perfectly honest I'm not sure within our means we can afford to increase that depth. We have a fair few youngsters and once they get a couple more seasons under their belt they'll be fine. I personally say keep the squad virtually the same get decent cover for the IPL and England duty (especially a third keeper maybe called for soon) and we'll be fine. Consistency is the main problem in the Championship not talent in the squad.

  • Comment number 5.

    Oh Lanky Lanky! What a stunning effort from them all season. Was sure we'd mucked it up after the Worcester game, but my God this lot showed some fight. Feeling somewhat delicate this morning, but that was definitely worth it!

  • Comment number 6.

    Delighted for Glen Chapple, who a few ex-England players have said should have played for England for some years. Good advert for a much maligned format of the game, I was following the developments and I know many work colleagues were too.

  • Comment number 7.

    Great that the season came down to the final session to decide the title (and without weather kiboshing the final round). Don't normally subscribe to 'being happy for the fans of X', but I'll make an exception this time, because I am genuinely happy for Lancashire fans!

  • Comment number 8.

    Worcester staying up has to be the largest yet pleasing shock. At the start of the season would yorkshire have swapped any of their players for ours except maybe ajmal. Majority of our batsmen average under 30 and bowlers average over 30 and all have little experience outside worcester let alone international. Yet wel be in division 1 again next year

  • Comment number 9.

    As a Warwickshire supporter, I was obviously disappointed the way things panned out yesterday, but I would like to congratulate Lancashire, and particularly Glen Chapple, their long-serving and hard-working skipper. At the end of the day they forced a win when we couldn't. They won more matches than anyone else, so are worthy champs. I am also pleased that they took the title with a margin greater than the nine points we had deducted for pitch problems etc. so the title was won on the pitch rather than in the ECB's committee rooms.

  • Comment number 10.

    Sport sometimes produces days, that couldn't be written by anyone. You could roll off the tongue many writers and no one would have been able to get the day write. The tension, the joy, the anguish, it wouldn't have been any where near. That's when sport is at it's best.

    Being a Lancashire fan, right up to them shaking hands at the Rose Bowl, I was shaking like a leaf, I was pinching myself listening to 5Live Extra, screaming at them for going to Hampshire rather than being at Taunton. I had hoped that the outcome would be the one it was, but in previous years I'd hoped the same, felt we had the team to win it. The team from the 80's, moving into the 90's, denied so often by the weather, it was cliched to say that, but it really was. We got close, so often and then lost it, including that day down at Surrey. I didn't think I'd ever see us win the championship. Then the announcement they'd shook hands, I stopped shaking for 10 seconds and then started again thinking we'd collapse, we'd lose our wickets chasing the target, but that target got nearer, the shaking stopped and tears of joy began. Sport does that too you, it doesn't have to be cricket it's any sport, but all too often over the years of being a Lancashire fan, apart from the 1 day successes through the 70's and 80's, we've never had that feeling, till now.

    Congratulations Lancashire, Thank You Lancashire, well done to Warwickshire and Durham on making this championship one of the best ever, for creating the magical feeling that sport brings. Lancashire we not the only winners yesterday, Cricket was, the amount of text messages from friends and messages from people abroad who were listening, some for the first time, showed that this quaint game that is Cricket can exist outside of the test arena, and long may it do so.

  • Comment number 11.

    As a Lancastrian (bred if not born) for the vast majority of my 45 years I can quite honestly say that I didn't think they would win the county championship in my lifetime. Look at the legends who've worn the red rose with pride over the last 77 years and I can't believe this team of relative unknowns have trumped them all.

    From a personal point of view it's nice to see a couple of Bolton and Blackpool lads at the crease when the historic moment was achieved but us Lancastrians will always have a soft spot for Yorkshire for producing Glen Chapple and Gary Keedy for us. Hopefully Yorkshire will be back in the top flight soon and we can show the soft southerners how team cricket is really played!!

  • Comment number 12.

    Good piece Kevin. As a Warks supporter after last season's shenanigans if you'd told me that we would finish second I would have been thrilled but it's obviously disappointing to lose it on the last day. However fair play to Lancs who won 10 games out of 16 so on that basis alone deserved their success. Congratulations to them. From my team's perspective I'm more optimistic than I've been for a while as a number of young players are really coming through and performing. Roll on next season.

  • Comment number 13.

    My Hampshire down again (wish Bransgrove would think less about turning the Rose Bowl into some sort multi-purpose event mega-venue and think about 1st-class cricket for once). But congratulations to LCCC.

    Kerrigan is a real prospect and I wish him all the best.

    Commiserations to His Highness, The King of Spain.

    Congrats also to Colin Graves for telling it like it is.

    Well done Michael Carberry for recuperating from serious illness and still finding good form.

    Worcestershire: how DO you do it? 11 losses, Div. 1 status intact.

    Well done RHB (i.e. Rory). Please keep bemoaning the scheduling which effectively relegates the status of the County Championship during the silly season (i.e. limited over priorities).

    Lastly, Hampshire to bounce back up next season (somehow).

  • Comment number 14.

    Forgot to add a word for Glenn Chapple. Then again what can you say? Bloody superb advert for English (and Welsh) 1st-class cricket.

    Well played.

  • Comment number 15.

    Promotion from Division Two really just comes down to money, Surrey paid £50k for the Indian spinner who took a shed load of wickets for the last 4 games,only they couldve done that,next year Hants and Yorks will run away with the league as theyll have the same clout

  • Comment number 16.

    Have never done this before but Lancashire's win prompted me to regsiter and post. As someone who was brought up in Manchester and has been a United and Lancashire fan for over 50 years, I have to say yesterday's triumph gave me more pleasure than any of United's wins. It was really good to know how it feels when an underdog wins, with few resources and a predominantly home-grown team (Chapple may have been born in Skipton and Horton in Australia but they have both come through the Lancashire ranks - only Keedy (a very long time ago) and Moore have been imported). THis made it all extremely sweet and encouraging, whether a Lancashire supporter or not, that such a team can still win a major trophy. Like others, I was on the computer at work and admit to a few tears at 17.14 yesterday.

  • Comment number 17.

    Fantastic. So long waited for and a wonderful effort by the players all season. But a great achievment that will sadly never be repeated. Next year we will be playing most (if not all) of our home matches at Old Trafford and once again the weather WILL once again force draws upon us. If only the Lancs management had shown real courage and foresight and moved grounds when they had the chance. I fear this season will be a constant reminder of a missed opportunity.

  • Comment number 18.

    Well played Lancashire as a born and bred yorkshireman it was very hard to take, but the league doesn't lie, they were the best side all season.

    No.14, Yorkshire will struggle, we have a great playing pool to chose from, but we have no money, I.e no oversea's player this year, and only brought Jaques Rudolph back when it was to late. We could languish in division 2 for a few years yet. It also doesn't help with the England commitments where as Lancashire have non just very good CC pro's.

    Not looking forward to the Ribblesdale league next year as we (settle) are the only Yorkshire side in a Lancashire league, going to get a lot of stick!!!

    Last word on Glenn Chapple, one of the most unluckiest county cricketers of all time. He should have had a shelf full of caps for England!!!

  • Comment number 19.

    Well as my user name suggests, I'm absolutely bowled over (pun well and truly intended) that we've finally got the monkey off our backs. Let's hope the squad(Oh and great for the likes of Keedy, Watkinson and the ever reliable Glenn Chappell to get their hands on some silverware - long overdue) can stay together and challenge for more honours over the next few seasons - that and the redevelopment of Old Trafford (the only Old Trafford that counts in my mind), it's all coming up (red) roses for Lanky Lanky Lanky Lanky Lankysher !

  • Comment number 20.

    Truly a remarkable achievement from Lancashire given their lacks of funds this year, but all the more satisfying for being a homegrown team. Living in the USA now I was very happy yesterday to have the opportunity of listening to the title being won online through the excellent BBC Commentaries. Liam Bradford has accompanied many of my working hours. I have also particularly enjoyed the quality of the Essex and Yorkshire commentaries.

  • Comment number 21.

    To R. Brooker:

    Worcestershire might have lost 11 games, but they also won more than Yorkshire or Hampshire. Fair play to them for always looking for a result and it's good that a team getting loads of draws hasn't stayed up. It's also refreshing to see a county with one of the smallest budgets out there with a young, mostly homegrown team be able to stay up in Div One.

  • Comment number 22.

    Well done to Lancs, they won the most games. However, Kevin, I believe you were a little off the mark with your summary of Durham's season. So inconsistent they won their final two games. They thrashed both Lancs and Warks, home and away. Have you checked the table for bonus points? Who achieved the most? Durham - including most batting points. I believe Durham would have won the league had they not suffered at the hands of our fickle weather. I believe all championship games should be played at the same time to help reduce the lottery effect. Anyway, a good finale to the season to show that the championship remains the best form of the game.

  • Comment number 23.

    First off, the 2 division championship seems to have brought far more competitive conclusions to the cgampionship season than I remember in the bad old days and drudgery of an 18 team league. Virtually every year it seems to come down to the last round of matches.

    Secondly congrats to Lancashire, deserved champions. Amazing to think of the long list of Lancashire players who didn't win a title. Glen Chapple is a deserved torch bearer for the good honest Lancashire pros who didn't get that far as well.

    Thirdly, I think its nice for Peter Moores to have a sense of redemption. Best county coach around. Seems like a stand up guy.

  • Comment number 24.

    Lancs first innings 480 wuthout a century showed a real team ethic that has been there the whole season. A fantastic achievment with everybody playing a big part. I wonder if the games being away from Old Trafford helped in any way?

  • Comment number 25.

    The legendary Sir Donald Bradman rated Liverpool Cricket Club at Aigburth as one of his favourite grounds in world cricket.

    The move to the Liverpool venue was clearly the catalyst in ending the 77 year drought; well done Lancashire.

  • Comment number 26.

    @21. Fair enough. Good on Worcester and, I suppose the points system.

    Présume Yorkshire won't be seeing much of JB next season.

  • Comment number 27.

    I am a Lancashire lad 45 years young who season in and out has seen my country fail to win the championship though there has been the torture of near misses and bad luck . The weather affects Lancashire more than most and so this year its hugely satisfying , great consistency , great group of men and a wonderful feeling to see them finally get what they deserve . It would have been heart breaking to see warwickshire win but the manner in which Lancashire won with so much to do on the final day maybe makes the victory that tiny bit sweeter . I would like to see some strengthening of the batting but i can only see them getting stronger now the monkey is off their backs . Every year the statistic of when lancs last won the championship has been quoted over and over , thank god i wont hear it again )))

  • Comment number 28.

    Having supported Lancashire from the heady days of 1969 when introduced to cricket at Old Trafford in the Players' 40 over league it has been a long wait for this wonderful achievement.

    I'm struck by the generosity of the comments from non Lancastrians. I can remember the times when Lancashire teams were, shall we say, not terribly popular. This team, however, has won a place in the affections of many because they've played the game in the right way. They've not won this by dint of an outstanding overseas player (with no disrespect of Maharoof who made some good contributions).

    Although they had the advantage of playing home games on the out grounds at Blackpool, Liverpool and Southport this was to some degree negated by Chapple's (and any stand in captain) remarkable ability to lose the toss. All 8 homes tosses were lost and I think Lancashire only won the toss three times in Championship games.

    It should also be borne in mind that in the two games they drew (Sussex away and Warwicks home) Lancashire were agonisingly close to victory. So they are worthy champions indeed.

    A word for Hampshire. I was disappointed last season when Lancashire were steamrollered by Notts on the last day. No praise is too high for the guts and professionalism of Hampshire who ground out the last day against Warwickshire without which Lancashire would not have got home.

    Finally although it was a team effort great credit must go to coach Peter Moores and captain Glen Chapple. I spent a lot of time at Old Trafford in the 1990's and up to 2005 (I no longer live locally) so saw a lot of Chapple's career. A more thoroughly decent bloke you simply could not find. I'm absolutely delighted for him.

  • Comment number 29.

    Please Durham fans, do not get into the same frame of mind that Lancashire have been doing for years of blaming the weather although I do agree with timings of LVCC matches and the stupid Autumnal freeze that we have to sit through to watch the best cricket competition in Britain. I think both Durham and Warwickshire are better sides than Lancashire but winning the CC has always been about striking hard when the situation presents itself. Lancashire won a fair few games with minutes to go whereas Durham and Warwickshire had huge margins of victory in their games. The game at Edgbaston where Warwickshire needed 135 more off 21 overs v Yorkshire was one such game with 7 wickets still left when the umpires called it off with both teams wanting to play and the only 2 people in the whole ground who didn't were the umpires. Pathetic. Kevin Howell's comments at the time that the umpires were only trying to make it fair for all the other sides was totally stupid. All matches should stand on there own seperated from any other LVCC going on at the time. It's no concern of the umpires what other counties think about 2 teams playing on in slightly dodgy light in some other part of the country. Kevin Howell's also saying he "can't feel too sorry for Warwickshire" is no great surprise because like so many of the media, he was just dying to get all slushy and sentimental about Lancashire's first title since Noah got his saw out and said "I know what I'll build". The coverage on 5live sports extra was so biased that had the other 2 counties been on the verge of winning, the BBC would still have been commentating down at Taunton as they seemed to be for 75% of the time. A note to the idiots who 'organise' all the fixtures. Try and have the last round of LVCC so that they finish at weekends. It would make it so much easier for away fans to watch the games thus creating a better atmosphere.

  • Comment number 30.

    All you Lancs fans should also thank Hampshire for having as much of a say in where the title went as anybody. They helped Lancs not just by beating Durham and Warwickshire but by being so afraid of having more points deducted in the final match they needed to win, they decided to produce a dull pitch so as not to get penalised just in case they won. Dull, no-result pitches are worse for cricket than pitches that give bowlers help from ball one. From the point of view of watching interesting cricket, I hope Hampshire stay in division 2.

  • Comment number 31.

    Congratulations to Lancashire. As someone who taught himself to read by looking at the cricket scores in the Manchester Evening news, I have waited a long, long time for this. Since I was traveling here in Alberta, Canada without my computer on victory day...I had to wait ten hours before I found out. I was in a business meeting and when asked is there any other business I suggested that they might direct the internet to BBC. When I found out the result, I was jumping up and down with excitement ( very unprofessional) but then took my colleagues out to share in a couple of bottles of champers. Most don't know what cricket is. Always a Lanky kid at heart. PS What a testimony for county cricket

  • Comment number 32.

    As a Lancashire fan since the mid 80's, I have been used to many seasons of tears and so nearly. 48 hours after finally winning the championship, it still hasn't sunk in that we are the champions.

    I cannot emphasize enough how proud I am of this team for what they have achieved.

    Over the years I have followed the heroic Clive Lloyd, Graeme Fowler, Paul Allott, Wasim Akram, Neil Fairbrother, John Crawley, Michael Atherton, Mike Watkinson et al continuously fall at the final hurdles, only to be upstaged by a young, inexperienced team of local lads, the class of 2011.

    The stars of this year have been the bowlers: Glen Chapple and Gary Keedy were as reliable as ever, but Kyle Hogg burst into the side and ripped into opposition batting lineups. In the last few matches Simon Kerrigan stood up to be counted. The 9 wickets against Hampshire were unforgettable.

    The batsmen, while never outstanding, all put their hands up on a number of occasions when required, and I can only see them improving.

    Lastly, I felt Farveez Maharoof was an excellent signing. He played a big part in some of our early season wins. These days overseas players only tend to be available for a month before going off to other commitments. After three weeks of getting used to English conditions they have one good game, and then they're off. So to employ someone like Farveez, who was likely to come cheaper but to be available for a longer time, was a sound strategy, and one that came off superbly. Please repeat this policy in future seasons.

    Player of the season is undoubtably the evergreen Chapple, but my goodness, can't they all be utterly proud of what they have achieved.

  • Comment number 33.

    As a Somerset fan, I feel most of my negative pre-season feelings were realised. The signing of Hussain wasn't the genius move many predicted. Another young spinner in the form of Max Waller didn't get many opportunities. The real problem was a weak batting lineup and that showed at the end of the season. The loss of de Bruyn and Durston left a huge hole in terms of experience and seeing how well both players have performed this season for their new sides as the younger players, Buttler included, struggled was a definite kicker.

    Kartik is undoubtedly a good bowler but now is the time for Somerset to show some faith in Dockrell and Waller. I've been critical of how Somerset have used their spinners over the last few years and both have shown they can perform on the bigger stage, Dockrell in particular with Ireland. Faith has been shown in the younger batsmen and this faith should also be shown in the bowlers. For my money, Somerset should go for an overseas batsman, find one more seamer, and see if there's an experienced English qualified batsman available.

    Positives? Steve Kirby. Absolute commitment and a very good signing. A slightly lopsided positive is seeing Jonny Bairstow hitting out for England. I for one think he'll leapfrog Kieswetter in the international stakes, meaning fewer ODI and T20 games for the Somerset keeper and more county time. I've said before on the BBC that I wonder if Kieswetter would be better suited to giving the gloves to someone else and focusing on his batting as I feel he's got a lot more to offer as a batsman only than potentially harming that ability through keeping wicket.

  • Comment number 34.

    Having had a few days to reflect and reading subsequent contributions to mine, two further comments on Lancashire. First, Maharoof was valuable in the first part of the season, but they won the last matches without him (and thus Moore was the only real import). Second, on strengthening, whilst Maharoof did play his part, Lancashire need a quality batsman at no.4 - this is their obvious weakness (assuming Karl Brown continues to improve). There appears to be no-one coming through so, they should either look to an overseas player or bringing someone in from another county.


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