Lancashire won the County Championship this month in dramatic fashion, chasing over 200 in 30 overs whilst Warwickshire, their rivals, couldn’t dislodge a stubborn Hampshire, following-on and showing why the draw is such a noble outcome of a game of cricket.
My ECB app reported that Lancashire had won their first outright LV= County Championship since 1934. The appropriation of the history of England’s first-class tournament by an insurance company jarred. What about Schweppes? Don’t they get any credit for the years of Lancashire’s barren patch?
Lancashire’s victory is a popular one. The reasons well rehearsed: team without stars, many local boys, young team led by Glenn Chapple, several close and exciting finishes. Chapple is one of those cricketers I have to do a mental check on when processing that he is playing. The check runs along the lines of, didn’t he play alongside [cricketer no longer playing]; is it really the same one? Peter Martin (retired 2004) is the reference point in Chapple’s case.
And the victory is a popular one because it ends an incongruous period without success. At least it is, and will be for some time, in the north west. But elsewhere? I’m not so sure.
Sport has a folklore of competitors denied (or incapable of) success for long periods. Cricket has offered:
- Queensland not winning the Sheffield Shield, in a division of five (then six teams) from their introduction to the tournament in 1926/27 until 1994/95
- England without an Ashes series win from 1986/87 until 2005
Other sports have seen the following famously starved of success:
- Baseball: the cursed Boston Red Sox from 1918 to 2004
- Tennis: no British male winner at Wimbledon since 1936 and still counting
- Yachting: all comers to the US hosted Americas Cup from 1857 to 1983.
The celebrations in Brisbane, throughout England, Massachusetts and Perth, respectively, would have been sweet and emotional. Neutral fans may have raised a glass and cherished the moment that history was made, or corrected. But with the arrival of success, the end of the barren run, departs one story, one dimension of interest in the next season or competition. The sport is a little emptier.
So Lancashire’s victory in the (unembellished) County Championship robs cricket in 2012 of one of sport’s essential stories. But don’t fret, we still have Somerset’s misfortune and near-misses to lap up.