Three games, three defeats. No matter which way you slice it, things are pretty grim for Lancashire in one-day cricket.
It’s becoming a familiar tale for the Lightning. No Lord’s final since 2006, no appearance in the knockout stage since 2012 and no sign of significant improvement any time soon.
In previous seasons, a reason has been put forward that Lancashire haven’t been able to place enough focus on the Royal London One-Day Cup, because of the need to juggle three competitions. There’s no such excuse this time around. Head Coach Glen Chapple said, before the tournament began, that the change in scheduling would help them find a consistent pattern in the 50-over format.
But there simply doesn’t seem to be a gameplan. They’ve played three games in the competition and don’t look any closer to finding the formula for success in the longest form of the white-ball game.
In the opener against Leicestershire, Haseeb Hameed made his white-ball debut and notched a mightily impressive 88 at the top of the order. Then, inexplicably, he was moved to three against Yorkshire where he looked panicked and shaky.
Luke Procter opened in Hameed’s place but, in the third match against Northants at Liverpool, Procter was dropped altogether with Karl Brown opening and Hameed failing again at three. Brown made runs but it shows Lancashire are totally confused in their thinking.
Hameed’s success should surely have seen him given a run in the one-day side at the top of the innings, but Chapple chose to move him away immediately and thrust him in to an entirely unfamiliar position.
But the three defeats have highlighted a wider problem. Lancashire have twice failed to defend a sizeable total in their two home games, against Leicestershire and Northants. Totals of 314 and 324 should have been defendable, and brought about scoreboard pressure, but Lancashire’s bowlers haven’t been able to get the job done.
It seems as though the balance of the side is wrong. They’ve had the luxury of picking James Anderson for these three games, and Stephen Parry is a top class one-day spinner. Aside from that, Lancashire are reliant on the performance of all-rounders, and lack the specialist bowlers that could see them home when the pressure is on in the run chase.
Jordan Clark and Ryan McLaren are good batsmen and good bowlers, but Lancashire look a frontline bowler light in all formats, and especially in the One-Day Cup. You feel they could omit either Clark or McLaren for a fully-fledged seamer, and the side would have more balance.
It was a point laid bare in their humbling Roses defeat against Yorkshire. The Vikings have a raft of bowlers who are capable with the bat, the likes of Tim Bresnan, David Willey, Liam Plunkett and Adil Rashid, but first and foremost they are high-class bowlers. In that game they all failed with the bat yet were superb with the ball, as they squeezed the life out of Lancashire.
While Chapple doesn’t have such quality at his disposal, the side could be better balanced with the inclusion of out-and-out bowlers rather than trying to cover all bases with all-rounders. The poor form of Tom Bailey, the seamer who went at eight an over in the defeat to Northants, has also undone the side.
Lancashire simply don’t look like defending a lead, and oppositions are finding chasing them relatively easy, with too many bad balls being dispatched to the boundary with ease.
50-over cricket is becoming a huge problem for Lancashire, who were so dominant in the format in the 90s. These three defeats all but end their hopes of making the knockout stage, but the rest of the competition has to be spent trying to find a formula and a plan for winning one-day games.
It was noticeable that after the Roses win, Yorkshire’s Matt Fisher talked of how his side were grooving their game plan. Lancashire might be well served to devise such a plan.
With no cohesive plan; chopping and changing at will and; a bowling attack seemingly incapable of defending a total posted by their batsmen, Lancashire’s one-day blues do not look set to end any time soon.