Relegation to Division Two of the County Championship was a bitter pill to swallow for Lancashire fans.
Second in Division One back in 2017, last year’s efforts were laden with underperformance, and ultimately they could have no complaints when their downfall was confirmed in their final game of the season against Hampshire.
Tasked with leading the Red Rose back to the top tier of County Cricket at the first time of asking, new captain Dane Vilas has led a side which at this stage look in a good position to win promotion.
The season began well at Lord’s with a seven-wicket triumph over Middlesex, Haseeb Hameed’s 117 signalling his return to form. A result followed up excellently at Old Trafford last week, where Northamptonshire were dispatched with ease by 10 wickets.
Of course, they are only two games into their campaign, but their bowling performance on the first two days of their match against Worcestershire was further evidence of the strength they possess.
Glenn Chapple opted for the four-man attack of James Anderson, Graham Onions, Richard Gleeson, and Tom Baily and it is tad ominous for the other sides in Division Two that the in-form Saqib Mahmood was left out.
And the quartet selected tormented their fellow promotion hopefuls to put their team on the brink of a third successive win.
On day one the relentless accuracy of both Onions and Anderson was too hot for the visitors to handle, whereas on day two there was more of an all-round effort. Gleeson continued his good form from the win over Northamptonshire with four wickets, while last season’s leading wicket-taker in Division One, Tom Bailey, struck twice.
Anderson also chipped in with two further scalps as Worcestershire slumped from 50-1 to 99-7.
There was a lot of poor batting from a Worcestershire perspective, Tom Fell’s 40 the only real top-order contribution of note, but when facing this Lancashire attack, there is very little breathing room.
Against most sides there is often a bowler or two where the batsmen can relax a little: you get the odd bad ball and the chance to build up your score.
There is no such luxury against Lancashire. All four bowlers would be considered the leader of the attack for most other teams in the division and the fact they are bowling in tandem makes them an irresistible force.
Even if they do not win this game, it is hard not to make a case for the Red Rose to be a certainty for promotion. Especially with Anderson available until the middle of July.
If Lancashire are defeated by the Pears, then it will not be because of their efforts with the ball.
The batsmen were poor on day one, but at least Liam Livingstone looks to be returning to form. He played nicely on the morning of day two, scoring 69 in Lancashire’s total of 201. The highlight of his innings five successive fours from one Ed Barnard over.
His sixth-wicket partnership of 98 with Dane Vilas could well prove to be the crucial one in this match, as once Vilas was dismissed with 186 runs on the board, the hosts soon collapsed to 201 all-out.
The Worcestershire attack are showing their own prowess with the ball in hand, Wayne Parnell finishing with five wickets and Charlie Morris four.
If they are to force a win, then Parnell must take a huge amount of credit. Along with first innings wickets, his 63 runs helped the Pears recover from 38-7.
The South African frustrated the Lancashire bowlers again for much of the evening session on day two, but did fall to the final ball of the day, caught behind by Vilas to give Gleeson his fourth wicket, and re-establish Lancashire’s advantage.
Worcestershire 149-9, leading by 120 runs and needing a titanic effort to give themselves a sniff of victory on the third day.