Lancs philosophical on prosaic preparation

It will be St Annes rather than St Kitts, and Beckenham not Barbados, in Lancashire’s low-budget preparations for the 2011 season.

But at a press conference in Liverpool to look forward to the five County Championship games the county will play at Aigburth this summer, both coach Peter Moores and captain Glen Chapple tried manfully to turn that into a positive.

It probably helped that Merseyside was basking in spring sunshine, and Chapple especially appreciated the feelgood factor as a long-standing Liverpool supporter who had relished the previous day’s Premier League demolition of Manchester United.

But Lancashire also seem to be relishing the unusual position for a traditionally wealthy county of having their backs against the wall.

“We definitely benefited from going to Barbados last year, and all the counties who went out for the tournament they staged made a good start to the season,” said Moores.

“But if we get lucky with the weather, we could have a really good pre-season in this country. We’re going to be better-prepared for early-season English pitches if we’ve been playing on them all through the spring.”

Moores has asked the Old Trafford groundsman Matthew Merchant to prepare some grass nets as early as possible – hopefully by the end of March – and although Lancashire are hampered by the absence of any artificial wickets at their headquarters, they hope to find alternatives at outgrounds like Liverpool or Bowden.

Then they will head for St Annes for some match practice – “it’s usually a bit drier at the seaside,” Moores explained with a grin – before heading south for a three-day fixture against Kent at Beckenham, from March 28.

They are also grateful to have been given another three-day game against Oxford University at the Parks before beginning their Championship campaign against Sussex at Aigburth on Friday April 8.

“We can still have a very good pre-season in this country if we plan it right and have a bit of luck,” said Chapple, who is enthusiastic about the prospect of playing the first five home Championship games in Liverpool. We’re looking at five result pitches here, which will be different to being at Old Trafford.”

Aigburth has been lively enough in June, July and August in recent years, producing several terrific games of cricket including last summer’s thriller against Hampshire which Moores described as the best four-day match he’s been involved in.

The prospect of bowling by the banks of the Mersey in April had Chapple practically salivating – and if it rains, he could always pop up to Anfield.

Indeed, the only cloud hanging over the press conference was the ongoing uncertainty over the attempt to scupper Lancashire’s plans to redevelop Old Trafford.

A judicial review was heard in Manchester last week as the latest in a series of challenges by Derwent Holdings against Trafford Council’s decision to approve Lancashire’s plans – which involve a new Tesco superstore – while denying them planning permission for a rival supermarket on a nearby site.

The decision had initially been expected last Friday, but it now seems likely to be delayed until the middle of this week at the earliest.

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