Paul Edwards considers Simon Kerrigan's performance on Saturday
The comedian Peter Kay has this routine where he compares the personalities of biscuits as revealed by their resilience when dunked in hot liquid. The rich tea variety is viewed as cowardly because it disintegrates into your brew when first dipped in it; hobnobs, by contrast, are made of tougher stuff and soak up the tea rather than collapsing into it.
"Hobnobs are like Marines," trumpets Kay. "They say: 'Dip me again, I can take it." His audience dissolves into laughter at the ridiculous originality of the image. It seems to me that cricketers' performances when under pressure can be divided up in a similar fashion. Some crumble; others cope.
Few, though, thrive so gloriously and at a relatively young age as Simon Kerrigan did on Saturday evening at Aigburth.
After agitating to bowl at the River End, Kerrigan had Lancashire's Championship hopes in his hands as he attempted to whittle away Hampshire's on a surface offering him only a modicum of help. It was enough to give a Test-hardened spinner clammy hands. Not Kerrigan though. Confident enough to say from which end he wanted to operate, he responded to pressure by bowling even better than he usually does.
"Simon's bowling was just like an international class spinner," said Peter Moores, who, incidentally, said after the Blackpool game that Karl Brown is currently playing shots of international quality. Hang on a minute, what happened to coaches not putting too great a burden of expectation on their younger players? It's probably a reasonable guideline in some cases, but when the youngster in question is performing well enough to justify the accolade Moores opts to tell it like it is.
"No one's going to bowl any better than Simon did," he continued. "He got good players out with unplayable balls on a wearing pitch. He's proved time and time again that he likes bowling under pressure. It seems to turn him on and that's the sign of a player who's got the chance of going all the way.
"If you want a reflection of how well Simon bowled you ask Neil McKenzie how hard he was to face. Simon has a strong work ethic, he's very talented and he's got a very great belief in his own ability."
Lancashire skipper Glen Chapple touched on the same theme when asked about his decision to switch Kerrigan to the River End.
"If someone believes in themselves that much then I think you should listen to them," he said. "There's no limits to how good he can be."
As for the bowler himself, there were plenty of references to how much he has to learn in his post-match interview, followed by one of the more remarkable statements I've heard from a 22-year-old with all of 16 first-class games behind him.
"I believe that when it's coming out well that I'm as good as anyone," said Kerrigan. "I enjoy bowling. When I click into a rhythm - and this is a bit of arrogance from myself - I feel that I can bowl as well as anyone in the world."
Journalists do think twice before they use quotes like that, especially when they've been made in the aftermath of a victory like Saturday's. We do sometimes wonder whether it's fair to hang a comment round a man's neck when it will be thrown back at him on every occasion when he doesn't perform at his best. In Kerrigan's case I, at least, have no such qualms.
It seems that Lancashire's slow left-armer welcomes the pressure of having to live up to his own comments. Unlike golfers who collapse in the last round of a major or footballers for whom the mere thought of a penalty shoot turns their legs to blancmange, he revels in situations when the stakes are at their highest. There are other sportsmen who have reacted in a similar way. The only trouble is, the list of such men includes names like Sampras, Redgrave and Nicklaus.
Just how good can Simon Kerrigan be? It will be fascinating to discover the answer. In the meantime, he is probably looking forward to the next situation when a team's hopes rests on his shoulders. That's fine. Dip him again, he can take it.
Photo (c) Simon Pendrigh
Article (c) Lancashire CCC