VVS Laxman has revealed that his 55 not out off 69 balls during the County Championship victory against Durham at Blackpool was the highlight of his short spell with Lancashire two seasons ago.
The Indian batting star netted with his county colleagues at Liverpool’s Aigburth ground this morning ahead of tomorrow’s County Championship fixture with Hampshire, and later outlined his hopes for the next three months.
He is desperate to banish the memories of that fateful day at the Oval when he hit a magnificent century, but could not quite help Lancashire chase down 489 for the LV Division One title.
But first he has to concentrate on starting well on Merseyside, and is hoping to replicate, if not better, his innings at Blackpool when he helped lead the county to a vital victory on a bowler friendly out-ground track.
It is extremely doubtful that this week’s track at Liverpool will be quite as difficult as it was that day, but history suggests there will be a result at Lancashire’s second home.
“It was quite challenging, especially in the second innings,” he remembers. “I got 20 or so in the first innings, but in the second innings the partnership between myself and Stuart Law helped the team to win.
“It was a very, very important knock, and very satisfying. When you play county cricket, you want that experience. The beauty of county cricket is that you play on different surfaces that you won’t have done before.
“You also want to perform on those surfaces. The Blackpool knock was very important for me, and it was a great learning experience to play in those conditions. Playing in England is always challenging, whether it be the weather conditions or the pitch conditions.
“It’s very important how you start off. I am really looking forward to tomorrow’s game.”
Laxman, nicknamed Very Very Special, notched 380 runs in five Championship matches in his first stint with the county, with two hundreds and two fifties,
His second ton came in his final innings at the Oval, and Laxman continued: “It was a Herculean task. It was heartbreak, but at the same time we must all be proud. It was definitely frustrating, it was definitely disappointing because we all came so close.”
And will that painful memory spur him on this time around? “Absolutely,” he continued. “I firmly believe the players have got the potential to go on and do that. If we enjoy the process of getting there, work hard, then the results will take care of themselves.”
A lot has changed at Lancashire since Laxman was last here. Peter Moores has replaced Mike Watkinson as coach and Glen Chapple has replaced Mark Chilton, and later Law, as captain.
And he joins a winning team, despite last week’s three-day loss at Durham.
“I have been following them on the internet for the last couple of months. They are doing really well in all forms of the game,” he continued. “They have done exceedingly well in the Championship as well as the Twenty20 and 50-over format.
“I am really looking forward to continuing my association which I had with them in 2007. I played for six to seven weeks, and I had a great time.”
Another couple of things that have changed since Laxman was last here are the presence of Andrew Flintoff in Lancashire’s dressing room and the presence of Dominic Cork in Hampshire’s.
“To have Freddie in the side is always a great advantage,” he said. “Any team he plays in will be strengthened. He is one of the best players that England have produced.
“I always had a lot of time for Corky because he is a great competitor. Playing with him in 2007, I could get first hand information about what he is like. He is a great team man with a lot of fighting spirit. It will be a keen contest tomorrow.”
The man from Hyderabad has a tough act to follow because South African Ashwell Prince left the club with 526 first-class runs under his belt from six matches.
“Ashwell is a great player. He has done really well for his country, he has done really well for Lancashire also,” added Laxman. “I don’t think there is added pressure, but there is responsibility to do well for the county.”
Photo: Ken Grime
(c) Lancashire CCC Ltd