Lancashire's cricketers are the cream of the English crop in 2011.
The Red Rose county, from players to supporters, enjoyed a glorious day in the club’s history at a sun-soaked Taunton yesterday.
Victory over Somerset, coupled with Warwickshire’s failure to beat Hampshire at the Rose Bowl, ended a 77-year wait for the most coveted prize in the county game.
Steven Croft hit the winning runs at 5.14pm on Thursday September 15 to clinch a tenth win of the campaign and a winning points haul of 246, which amounted to an eleven-point gap between them and the field.
The celebrations went long into the night in Taunton.
And Lancashire’s players and coaching staff have reacted to the glorious triumph.
Coach Peter Moores said: “It’s been a special year. I’m happy because nobody gave us a chance at the start of the year. But some of the lads that have come through, your Procters, your Browns, your Kerrigans, have played some fantastic cricket.
“To come out a winner at the end of it, it will only make these lads want to work even harder.
“It’s fantastic for them, it’s fantastic for people like Gary Yates, John Stanworth, Mike Watkinson. It’s great a moment for club and the supporters.”
Moores was a Championship winner in 2003 at Sussex, and was asked to compare the triumphs.
“They’re special in different ways. The Sussex one was a magical day and a magical time. This has been a magical season. The last game (Hampshire) we won with four minutes left, there were games against Yorkshire when we just got home.
“You can look back at the season and those what ifs, but we got home in them. It’s fantastic, just brilliant.”
Lancashire captain Glen Chapple bowled through the majority of this week’s match with a suspected torn left hamstring, taking two crucial wickets in Somerset’s second innings during yesterday’s final morning session.
The 37 year-old skipper has just finished his 20th season with 55 wickets from 12 matches.
He said: “We talk about pressure a lot, and you don't get more than we have been under in our last few games.
"If anything we have built up the importance of winning the title as an extra motivation. The young players know exactly what they have achieved, and that they are now part of Lancashire cricket history.
"At the start of the season no one gave us a chance. I don't blame them, and there is no resentment about that because we could see why. But we always had the belief, and that was a key element in our success."
Mark Chilton was a non-playing member of the squad at Taunton, only coming on as a sub-fielder when needed, most notably taking over the captaincy reins when Chapple left the field due to his hamstring troubles.
The 34 year-old batsman took sides close in 2006 and 2007 when he was captain, so it was great to see him in the thick of the celebrations at the end of the game.
“That was unquestionably the greatest moment of my career,” he said. “13 I was when I first pulled on a Lancashire shirt, so it’s been a long time coming. To be part of the squad that’s won it is absolutely outstanding. It’s something I’ll take with me for the rest of my years.
“It was a shame not to be out there. Obviously I’d have liked to have been out there. But we’ve talked about the team and the squad this year, and I’ve played my part in areas over the year.”
Croft had the honour of hitting the winning runs, cutting Craig Meschede through point and finishing 40 not out.
He said: “It’s unbelievable. It’s what I dreamed of when I joined the club seven years ago.
“Over the last 77 years, we’ve had some world-class players at the club. To win the Championship now is just amazing.
“It’s been a brilliant team effort, everybody has chipped in with runs, chipped in with wickets. There have been no stars, no high-profile overseas players. We put in the hard yards from November onwards, and it’s been an awesome team effort.”
Croft shared an unbroken third-wicket partnership of 78 with Karl Brown, who also finished 33 not out to help seal the victory after the departures of Stephen Moore and Paul Horton.
Brown finished his first full season of county cricket with 888 Championship runs to his name.
And he added: “To say I'm over the moon would not quite do it justice. I'm struggling to find any words to describe how I feel. It's unbelievable. What it was like out there was different to what it was like in the changing room.
“I was so nervous. But, as soon as I got out there, it was in mine and Crofty's hands. I felt more comfortable out there batting than I did in the changing rooms.”
Photo (c) Simon Pendrigh
Article (c) Lancashire CCC