"I hope our lads are really hurting, they should be. If they have to hurt for a week or a day I don't really care as long as they come back with something next time."
The words of Peter Moores after Lancashire's 205-run defeat to Worcestershire probably reflect the feelings of a large number of Red Rose supporters across the country and, indeed, around the world. The Old Trafford coach rightly chose not to mince his words or hedge his judgements after his side had been bowled out for 63, their lowest total at Old Trafford since Somerset dismissed Ken Grieves's side for 62 in 1963.
"Oh it hurts, there's no doubt about that," continued Moores. "It really hurts. We want to win, we want to do well and represent the fans. You have to take it on the chin. We've all been in the game a decent amount of time, and you can't take the wins and not take the losses. You've got to take both."
Yes, the people who celebrated at Taunton last September have to accept the fact that Lancashire were thoroughly outplayed by Daryl Mitchell's team in their LV= Division One match at Old Trafford and at no stage looked remotely likely to score 269 they required to win in the fourth innings on Friday, which was the third scheduled day of the game. In the morning and early afternoon Chapple's spinners had set up the game's dramatic finale by bowling their Midlands opponents out for 139 in 50.2 overs, but that now seems merely a curious prelude to the final innings of the game.
On a wicket offering a great deal of help to the spinners, Moeen Ali claimed six for 29 as Glen Chapple's men were bowled out in a mere 31.1 overs. That excellent seam bowler Alan Richardson took the wickets of openers Paul Horton and Stephen Moore, Horton being trapped lbw to the second ball of the game and Moore edging to Andrew in the gully for nine.
However, Moeen was introduced into the attack in the eighth over and took the wicket of Karl Brown, caught in the leg trap by Vikram Solanki for nought, with his third ball. The off-spinner added the scalps of both Steven Croft and Ashwell Prince, both snaffled by wicketkeeper Ben Scott, in his next two overs and when Tom Smith fell to the same combination six overs later Lancashire were 33 for six. Even given that cricket is a game which has been endlessly garlanded for its uncertainty, it was now clear that only the timing of Lancashire's defeat was at issue.
Gareth Cross was the only batsman to reach double figures, but eventually holed out to Alan Richardson when he had made 20. Chapple hit a six but, like Ajmal Shahzad, fell to the left-arm spin of Shaaiq Choudhry. Appropriately enough, though, Moeen took the final wicket when he had Kyle Hogg stumped by Scott, who claimed five victims on Friday. That was that: 63 all out.
The Worcestershire spinners bowled superbly in conditions which were ideally suited to their skills. Moeen's 12 for 96 are by far the best of his career and Choudhry was an admirable foil for him. Lancashire's may want to review their technique when playing the sharply turning ball.
“To me, you could bat on the pitch and you saw that in the first innings when Ben Scott got a century," said Peter Moores. "It turned, yes, but the bounce was even and we didn’t play well enough on it.
“We have not played to the level we played to last year, but we have good players and we are working hard."
However, despite the bitter hurt of this defeat, there was some good news for Lancashire on Friday and it centred mainly on the further development of Steven Croft as an all-rounder. Bowling his off-spin from the Pavilion End, the 27-year-old took a career-best six for 41 and finished with match figures of nine for 105.
Helped by Simon Kerrigan, who claimed three for 55, Croft reduced Worcesetershire to 69 for five in the morning session, a lead of 198, and a target of something just over 200 might have seemed disproportionately more attainable to Lancashire's batsmen.
But Gareth Andrew's robust 29 in 41 balls, added to Vikram Solanki's careful, technically accomplished 50, took the total to 116 before the next wicket fell and the loss of the last five wickets for 22 runs in 13.1 overs still left Lancashire with a Hinterstoisser Traverse to negotiate and an Eiger to climb. It was well beyond them.
The ECB Pitch Panel which convened on Friday evening after Lancashire's defeat to Worcestershire found that the Old Trafford pitch used for the game was poor but that no points penalty should be imposed.
Lancashire's Director of Cricket Mike Watkinson said that the panel reached their decison not to dock points because of what he described as "extenuating circumstances."
"The extenuating circumstances were the weather we've had, the amount of time we've been able to expose the wicket because of bad weather, which has been significant in grass dying off on the square, and the fact that our preparation processes were in line with ECB good practice," said Watkinson.
"The pitch has been pretty much lacking in grass and it's got quite dry and it has taken a reasonable amount of spin from the start."
"This is a new pitch on the extended square," added Watkinson. "The Ashes Test in 2013 will be played on part of the block which was common to both directions [both before and after the square was turned] and that's tried and tested over many years.
I feel gutted that we've lost a game of cricket and that we've not played as we could," he continued. "I thought we'd have chased 270 down because if we'd have got two batsmen in there who had adjusted to circumstances and got established, I thought we could have got the runs. The damage to me is in losing the game."