Essex draw leaves Lancashire’s 2016 doubts lingering

Essex draw leaves Lancashire’s 2016 doubts lingering

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Look up the word doubt in the dictionary and you will find this definition: a feeling of uncertainty or lack of conviction.

A run of 11 games without a win to finish last season in Division 1 is sure, despite their protestation to the contrary, to have left Lancashire feeling a little uncertain and lacking in conviction.

It is therefore fair to suggest that there is degree of doubt about their red ball credentials as we commence the 2017 season. Now doubts can manifest themselves in many forms and are used in conjunction with many metaphors.

Doubts can, we are told, creep in. From their last win at home against Surrey on May 22nd 2016, through all of those 11 winless games, the doubts are certain to have done more than a little creeping.

It is now of course a new season, Lancashire have a new coach, some new players and a fresh start. But the club remains the same, the majority of the current players endured that winless run, and so it is only natural for them to think back to those months without tasting victory.

But doubts can also be pushed away, banished, at least temporarily. Over the first three days of the Championship opener against Essex, Lancashire will have gone some way to pushing any doubts that may be present to the back of their mind.

A couple of half-centuries for Kolpak signing Dane Vilas, wickets for spinner Stephen Parry and a maiden first class hundred for Alex Davies will have brought great joy to the Lancashire ranks and had the confidence surging.

But doubts can linger. More than that, they can fester, like that piece of cheese at the back of your fridge that you ought to have thrown out months ago but never quite got round to it. You know it’s there, but you don’t notice it all the time. And then you reach for the milk for your morning brew and the smell hits you smack in the face.

And on the final day of the intriguing contest at Chelmsford, the only opening Championship contest to last beyond the morning session of day four, Essex threw wide open the fridge door and Lancashire’s doubts will surely have resurfaced.

Tasked with needing eight wickets on the last day to win the match, Lancashire were favourites to end their barren run. But a wicketless first session, and a magnificent century from Daniel Lawrence, helped Essex to complete a superb rescue mission and claim a draw that will have felt like a win.

Now those Lancashire doubts are no longer creeping in, they’re smashing the front door down, banging the tambourine and setting off the smoke alarm.

A winless run of such length, no matter how talented you are, no matter how experienced you are, no matter if it stretches to a different season, is sure to raise a level of uncertainty.

And the thing about doubts is that they are limitless, and the seeds of them can also be sowed.

Lancashire’s staff and players have been asked already, at the start of this season, whether they have enough depth in the bowling. An inability to claim those last eight wickets against Essex, even with the use of James Anderson, might have served to increase those nagging doubts.

It should also be pointed out that if you look at the County Championship odds with most bookmakers, Lancashire and Essex will be the two propping up the list. They are the favourites to be the two sliding out the Division One exit door come September.

So Lancashire will know they have bigger challenges to come than a trip to Chelmsford to face an Alastair Cook-less Essex.

The opportunity to claim a first win in 12, to banish those doubts, to throw away the cheese at the first whiff of mould, was there for the taking.

Failure to do so is obviously far from a disaster; it’s the first game of the season. They have to wait just four days for another crack at it, when they head to The Oval.

But the longer this run goes on, the more the doubts will continue to creep in, linger and resurface.

And the questions about their Division One credentials will continue to be asked.

There’s no doubt about that.

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