Bolton, Oldham, Blackpool, Liverpool, Bury, Earby and Preston these are the towns, mostly old cotton mill towns, where seven of the Lancashire XI which beat Somerset at Taunton yesterday to secure outright the County Championship title for the first time in 77 years, were born, raised and learned their cricket.
One other of the team came through the club’s youth development process from the Under 17s onwards, another was the grandson of Sonny Ramadhi, that adopted Lancastrian, and another was born a mile or two beyond the county boundary.
Only one player was brought in from another county as a fully fledged first team player.
In those 77 years the Red Rose Countyhas come close to winning.
Their home at Old Trafford is a place of great cricketing history – it is where Trumper score a marvellous hundred in front of Cardus, where Laker took nineteen Test wickets in a single match against the Australians, and where Warne bowled ‘that’ ball.
But is also a venue at which a Test match has been abandoned without a ball being bowled, TWICE. The prevailing weather comes in from across the vast Atlantic Ocean and never misses this its first opportunity to drop its sopping burden.
That is a round-about way of suggesting that Lancashire has had more trouble than most counties in getting enough ‘result matches’ to top the points table.
It is therefore ironic that the club’s plans to redevelop this ground and their misfortune to have been dragged into extremely expensive litigation over these plans have resulted in two radical changes this season.
First, more of its fixtures have been played away from Old Trafford in drier match-finishing coastal climes. Secondly, the club has been able to afford only a small and more locally derived squad. At one stage in the year the club’s website could list only 17 contracted players.
This has meant that a fair sized chunk of last year’s Second XI who have been brought on under the intelligent and encouraging coaching of Gary Yates has had to be grafted into first team cricket than would otherwise have been the case.
First Team coach, Peter Moores, has also wisely ensured that coaches throughout the club, including Yates, have spent as much time as possible supporting the 1st Team so that the home grown talent, intentionally or not, have had familiar and experienced mentors around them.
Moores’ other mantra is that ‘Fittness is not an option”, so his young team looked fresher for instance than rivals Warwickshire who wilted physically as well as mentally at the Rose Bowl.
The way that Lancashire chased 211 in the final innings to win in 29.1 overs showed the resolve and inhibition that comes from a mixture of youth, talent and most importantly from an authentic culture produced from the common experience of learning and playing together in an environment of familiarity and stability.
The figurehead in this Band of Lancastrian Brothers is Glen Chapple who bowled through a wall of pain in true Nelsonian fashion in both Somerset innings and for whom and in whose spirit, it was palpable, the extraordinary deeds of others were done.
In this match Lancashire scored 701 runs for the loss of 12 wickets with everone reaching double figures. The lowest score of a batsman who was dismissed was 20 and the highest was 71.
So, you can win the Championship with local talent, you don’t need ‘hack’ players – they just crowd out the young and get in the way of finding that authentic ‘local’ culture in which your best cricket is played.
It is good to have a great cricketer with you to provide a close examination of the highest class and to provide the young in your opponents with the challenge of facing such class, but, with a captain steeped in the home county’s traditions, such as Chapple and Troughton, a coaching staff that know the psychology of their charges and in whom those charges recognize themselves, all you need is for them to be given their chance.
Horton,Moore, Brown, Procter, Croft, Smith, Cross, Hogg, Kerrigan, Keedy and above all Chapple have proved that.