Lancashire party mood turns sour at empty and forlorn Old Trafford


With the spirit of Aigburth still running through their veins, Lancashire announced mid-morning on Friday that they were going to open up their Old Trafford conference centre The Point for a party mid-afternoon, with players and members able to mingle happily and a (potential) trophy celebration to follow.

But, alas, pathos reigned. The trophy didn’t leave Edgbaston. The players were nowhere to be seen. The Point’s bar was open, and a huge screen showed live action from Birmingham, but the field of tables lay empty save a fistful of the most touchingly loyal spectators. At the top of the staircase by the second floor a member of staff manned a merchandise stall. Meanwhile out on the pitch, cricket was being packed away, as the ground was prepared for a Courteeners concert here on Saturday night. In the place of the party stand a huge stage was being constructed and booming soundchecks occasionally interrupted Chris Woakes’ run-up.

Just before half past four, the dream was finally over as Somerset’s No 11, Jack Brooks, flayed at Liam Norwell, sending an edge zipping through to captain Will Rhodes who pounced at slip. The championship had slipped out of Lancashire’s hands. A fluorescent bulb flickered in the overhead light, and the few gathered for a resigned slurp at the bar.

Over in the members’ room in the pavilion, with Brian Statham’s jumper and pads in the glass cabinet behind, Lancashire’s departing director of cricket, Paul Allott, was feeling a little “dusty” after a lively celebration at Aigburth on Thursday night following the win over Hampshire.

“I’m pretty upset,” he said. “Especially after the euphoria of yesterday – I don’t think I’ve witnessed anything quite like it. We set ourselves up for a bit of a party, we’ll probably still have one but it will be a bit subdued.

“Winning championships is where we aspire to be, it is how we try to set ourselves up. We haven’t had an overseas player in the County Championship this year, we’ve had to rely on homegrown talent, which is good for us. We’re nearly there, but not quite. We aspire to win trophies and I don’t see any reason why we can’t win one or two of them next year.

“The last half hour, the way Warwickshire took wickets at regular intervals meant we were always going to be struggling, it is what happens when things get taken out of your hands.

“Warwickshire have done a sterling job and finished off the season with a good win on a really good pitch and set up the game well by doing all the right things. I thought they were slightly negative when they played here, but that worked for them in the end.”

Allot was effusive about the progress of his young charges, particularly the emergence of Josh Bohannon, Tom Bailey and George Balderson and the progress of Matt Parkinson in all forms of the game. He was less keen about the structure of the English game.

“The championship is undermined. It is not prioritised in the way it should be, it is marginalised into the margins of the season. We really need to concentrate our efforts on producing cricketers of all sorts, red-ball and white-ball cricketers. If we don’t, English cricket will get into a mess. You saw that this summer when there was nowhere for people to practise or play, and we were bemoaning the lack of upper-order players for England. It is quite clear the schedule doesn’t suit. It seems we give serious thought to the County Championship on a perennial basis but we really have to grasp the nettle this time.”

Elsewhere, Kent secured the Division Three title by beating Middlesex; Nottinghamshire, thwarted in their hopes of making the Bob Willis Trophy final by results elsewhere, muffled Yorkshire to finish in third place in Division One. And in the runs-for-fun match at the Oval, Ollie Pope made a career best 274, and Hashim Amla 163, as the game ended in a draw with 1,394 runs knocked up over four days, and a mere 10 wickets lost. Rikki Clarke, Surrey’s grizzled old warrior, meanwhile, was given a guard of honour by Glamorgan as he walked out and, as handshakes were exchanged in the autumn sunshine, led the players off one final time.