Lancashire's feeble collapse revives all the old title anxieties

Worcestershire 237 & 5-0 Lancashire 161 & 80 (Worcestershire win by 10 wickets)
Click to follow
The Independent Online

At this stage, winning the Championship becomes a test of nerve as much as skill and perhaps the thought that they might at last stop people banging on about 1934 and 1950 every year is beginning to scare Lancashire.

In case you were not aware, the first of those dates is the last time Lancashire finished clear of the field, while the second is the last time they had one hand on the prize– they shared it with Surrey. A couple of weeks ago, it looked as if those numbers might finally lose their irritating significance for them.

Now it is rather less clear-cut after Worcestershire, whose double appearance in Lancashire's last four fixtures had only increased expectations, beat them by 10 wickets in a day and a half to give themselves every chance of staying up after a season that they began as strong favourites to be relegated.

Lancashire were dismissed for 80 in over 30 overs, the end coming just before three o'clock after Worcestershire's first innings ended around noon. Alan Richardson, 36, the seamer enjoying the most productive season of his career, finished with 6 for 22, five of them leg-before, and Kemar Roach, the West Indian fast bowler, 3 for 44.

Stephen Moore, the Lancashire opener, was absent, attending the birth of his first child just as his team-mates were labouring here. But even Peter Moores, the Lancashire coach, admitted it would have been unlikely he would have made much difference. "It is disappointing but we played poorly," he said. "We didn't score enough runs in either innings to create any kind of pressure and there can be no complaints.

"We have two matches left and if we win both I think we will win the title. Win one and we are in the frame. We will find out over the next two if we have the character to do it."

Lancashire's batting was collectively bad, and, while Moores tried not to castigate individuals for any lack of application, his assessment of Worcestershire's James Cameron, who missed out by two runs on a century but played the match-winning innings nonetheless, said enough. "It wasn't a blameless pitch but Cameron got himself in and he didn't play and miss an awful lot; he showed the right game for that pitch," he maintained.