The long 2011 season has finally drawn to a close. For batsmen Mark Chilton, Mark Wagh and Ali Brown, it was their final summer of run-scoring on the county cricket before retirement, while for fast bowler Dominic Cork – a veteran of three counties – it was the last season of wicket-taking before heading off for pastures new.
Another stalwart, Paul Nixon – the Leicestershire wicketkeeper – also made his farewells to the county circuit, and what frenzied ones they proved to be at Twenty20 Finals Day at Edgbaston, while shortly after the end of the season Essex announced that Garon Park in Southend would not be staging any first-class games in 2012, possibly heralding the end of county cricket at the seaside resort where, at the Southchurch Park ground, the 1948 Australians famously made 721 in an astonishing day’s play.
The 2011 season began on March 27 in the heat of the Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi, as the MCC played Nottinghamshire – the previous summer’s champion county – using pink balls and floodlights. Both were in use again at the St Lawrence Ground in Canterbury in the LV=County Championship encounter between Kent and Glamorgan as the first-class season ended shortly before 8pm on September 15 with Stewart Walters hitting the winning runs for the Welsh county.
However, a few hours before, the most important victory of the season had been registered at Taunton as Lancashire defeated Somerset by eight wickets to clinch the Division One title. It was back in 1934 when the Red Rose county were last outright champions – a summer which saw Lancashire win 13 out of their 30 County Championship games, then of three days duration, with five of their batsmen topping the thousand mark.
In fact, two Lancastrians amassed over two thousand, with Jack Iddon making 2261 runs and Ernest Tyldesley 2227. Frank Watson posted 1800, Eddie Paynter 1284, while Len Hopwood scored 1583 runs, besides topping the Lancashire wicket-taking lists with 110 scalps, with the two Franks, Booth and Sibbles, claiming 89 and 68 wickets respectively.
In 2011, spinner Gary Keedy was Lancashire’s most successful bowler in the Championship with 61 wickets, while Kyle Hogg and captain Glen Chapple also passed the 50-mark. Only two batsmen – Paul Horton with 1040 runs and Stephen Moore with 1013 – reached the thousand mark, but before anyone should suggest that the efforts of the Lancastrians in 2011 were inferior to those of 1934, let’s finish this particular review of the current season with perhaps the most important statistic of the summer: Lancashire had a far higher win ratio than 77 years ago with the class of 2011 winning 10 out of their 16 Championship matches.
In fact, no side in either division of the four-day competition in 2011 won as many games as Lancashire, and all achieved without playing a single County Championship match at Old Trafford as home matches were staged instead at Liverpool, Southport and Blackpool. So while Essex may be contemplating not playing any more games for a while at their seaside venue at Southend-on-Sea, the benefits of staging games on the north-west coast are being warmly celebrated by Lancashire.