Paul Edwards reports from a fairly uneventful third day's play at New Road.
"I'll have to go home now and they'll all say: 'Oh, is the cricket over?' and I'll say: 'Yes, Lancashire lost,' and they come out with: 'Oh well, never mind, it's only a game....."
The melancholy complaint of the Boltonian at the breakfast table on Friday was probably shared by other Red Rose partisans on what should have been the third day of the match against Worcestershire. Some had to scrub plans to meet old friends; others had cancelled hotel bookings and gone home on Thursday.
One of the consolations to be taken from Thursday's events at New Road is that it by no means ends Lancashire's hopes of winning the County Championship; another is that the players understand what defeats mean to the supporters. It is useful to recall what Peter Moores said before the Friends Life t20 Finals Day
"When you park up at Edgbaston, and someone says, "Good luck today, it means everything to me," you've got to handle it," he commented. And that for an event which, whatever its value as cricketainment, could be decided by two heavy showers and a few lusty blows on the leg side from Will Jefferson.
Regardless of what people may say about Lancashire's performance at Worcester - and Peter Moores's articulate honesty in that respect should be noted too - it is reassuring that the players know what it means to the fans. Unlike Premiership footballers, who kiss the badge but make love to the cheque book, cricketers have a close connection with their county's supporters - and they do not need to do a sprinkler dance to prove it.
By the same token, the sometimes emotional criticisms of the fans are fuelled by their own commitment to the cause. It would be much more worrying if Lancashire's supporters merely shrugged when Glen Chapple and his players lost games, or if county cricketers never spoke to the people whose dreams they might realise.
One of the reasons for this closeness is that until young cricketers are perhaps 18 years old, they play for their clubs in one of Lancashire's many fine leagues. It is easy to go through the Lancashire squad and identify most of the players' roots: Blackpool, Atherton, Chorley, Sefton Park, Fulwood and Broughton, Royton. (Please note that the clubs mentioned are where players began their careers, not where they developed them further.)
Let's consider what Peter Moores said when he was about to coach Hightown's players a week last Wednesday.
"County cricketers often play the club game at a young age," he began. "They play cricket with and against men at 16, 17, 18 and I think that's really good for them; they develop a toughness and a savvy about cricket and we see that in the Luke Procters and the Karl Browns coming through. The fans in the stand enjoy seeing someone who's played for Leyland or played for Royton. It makes a difference to them. Club cricket is dear to the heart of anyone who's played the game."
County cricket is dear to people's hearts too, something we might remember when the vandals suggest cutting the number of counties in half and turning the first-class game into a franchise-driven urban monopoly.
It does not need repeating what Lancashire's players will be fighting for over the next eleven days; but what might encourage them a little as they prepare for the final two games of the season is the entrenched commonality of interest between themselves and the folk sitting in the pavilion at Aigburth or Taunton.
The remaining games for the teams at the top of the table this season are:-
Wednesday 7th: Warwickshire v Notts, Lancashire v Hampshire, Yorkshire v Somerset
Monday 12th: Durham v Worcs, Hampshire v Warwicks, Somerset v Lancs
Updated LVCC table after today's games: Durham 15-211 Warwicks 14-204 Lancs 14-201 Somerset 14-179