Lancs’ season so far

One would have to say that it’s been poor. We are a quarter of the way through the Championship and are yet to win a match. That’s not great. I do think that we have played better than our record indicates, but in the end our record is what matters and we are seventh in the table. Currently we are 51 points behind top of the table Warwickshire. Whilst it is only May, that is still a huge, huge deficit to overcome and I think it would be very difficult to realistically maintain hope of defending our title. We would almost need to win every match from here. That said, the notion of our being in a relegation scrap is almost equally far-fetched and I do still think that we will finish closer to the top than the bottom of the table.

For reasons why we have been failing, the obvious place at which to look is the batting. All of our matches have been marred by collapses (even the one in which we scored 400) and we have twice failed to set a defensible second innings target and once failed to come close to an admittedly large one. However, the batting is not actually quite as bad as it looks. It is important to remember that the conditions have heavily favoured the batsmen this early in the year and most teams have struggled. The average first innings score in Division One so far this year is only 231. (The ‘first innings’ here is the more traditional per team, not per match as I used in an earlier post.) Lancashire’s average first innings score this year is 230, so it’s hardly been a catastrophic failure of the batsmen. Of course, that average is boosted by the 400 scored at Taunton, but so too is the overall average. That overall average is also boosted by the one-off scores of 545 and 445. If we throw out the top score for every team, the overall average drops to 197 and Lancashire’s drops to 173. It’s a bigger gap, but still hardly a chasm. The bigger problem has been second innings scores, but in that case one has to note the scoreboard pressure under which the batsmen have been put by the bowlers.

That is, I think, an underrated problem. Our bowling won us the title last year (with very little help from the batsmen) and although they have generally done well this year, the expectations in these conditions are correctly higher in these conditions and at least two of our three losses can be put down at least partly to bowling lapses. The above will probably sound harsh and maybe it is a bit, but the figures seem pretty clear. We lost to Warwickshire because the bowlers conceded a partnership in excess of 200 for the eighth wicket. In the first match we let Sussex get away after having them 15-3. And it is also easy to forget that our collapse against Notts only left us 20-odd runs in arrears. The bowlers do have some excuse in that match though, as Smith was injured and Jimmy was off the field for a lot of the match. It is very hard to win with only one front line seamer, even if that seamer is Glen Chapple.

And that gets to what I think is one of the main reasons why Lancs have struggled this year: luck. We played pretty poorly against Sussex, but it was a bad toss to lose. Against Warwickshire we were undone by an incredible partnership from a side that is making a habit of pulling off unlikely wins this year. We played very well against Somerset only to have the rain ruin our chances. And against Notts we were left hoping Chappie could bowl all day and take about seven wickets. We could have played better and if we were to be proper title contenders than we would need to have played better. But I don’t think anyone can doubt that we have not had the rub of the green so far this year. Had circumstances been only slightly different we could have three wins and a loss right now. It’s small consolation, but it does mean that we are likely to improve.

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