Warwickshire 63 for 0 trail Lancashire 247 (Horton 83, Agathangelou 48, Woakes 5-63, Barker 3-52) by 184 runs
“The coach is leaving!” These words, voiced in either expectation or panic, will be spoken in many pubs and clubs during the Easter weekend. This morning, though, they carried a very different meaning for Lancashire supporters, one far removed from excursions to Morecambe or the Bank Holiday trip to watch Bury at York.
However, while the news that Peter Moores had been reappointed as England coach may have disappointed the warmly-clad diehards as they made their way to Old Trafford for the first match of the season, it can scarcely have come as too much of a surprise; the 51-year-old had been strongly tipped to regain one of the top jobs. For their part, Lancashire officials were at pains to stress that they will not be rushed as they ponder their options in the wake of Moores’s departure at the end of this game against Warwickshire.
“It’s all pretty new,” said director of cricket Mike Watkinson. “We’re only 24 hours into this, so we need to take time and look at our best way forward. The feeling among the lads is outstanding and we need to ensure that we don’t upset their equilibrium as we move through the season.
“We got this confirmed only 24 hours ago, so it’s not a case of we’re definitely going to do this or that. Glen Chapple’s doing an excellent job as captain and we need to make sure that he’s fully supported in every way and the players are fully resourced to help them achieve their aims and objectives. That won’t change because Peter’s moving on.
“We had Peter contracted until the end of 2015, so if you’re following a natural succession plan we didn’t expect that to change on Easter Saturday 2014 when we had a game starting on the Sunday. It’s just a bit early at the moment and Peter will be part of the conversation we’re having during this game to make sure that there is continuity in the structures he’s put in place. We have a good staff and plenty of experience here as it stands and it’s not as if we have to panic.”
Well perhaps not, but Moores and Watkinson cannot have been too happy with the profligate manner in which Lancashire batsmen surrendered a good position on the first day of his game. Having won the toss on what looks a good wicket, the home side were decently placed on 168 for 3 in the 56th over when Luke Procter, who had played with fluency and confidence, flicked Oliver Hannon-Dalby to Ateeq Javid at square leg and departed for 37.
That dismissal, which occurred just after an out of shape ball had been changed, began a collapse either side of tea which saw seven wickets fall for 79 runs in 19.1 overs. Lancashire were eventually bowled out over an hour before the close for 247, three runs short of a second batting bonus point and perhaps 75 shy of a par score on this wicket.
By the close, visiting openers Varun Chopra and William Porterfield had added 63 runs in fairly untroubled fashion and firmly given the lie to any suspicion that this pitch conceals hidden demons. This was indisputably Warwickshire’s day.
But the dominance of Ian Bell’s side cannot be explained merely by reference to Lancashire’s shortcomings. In cold, blustery conditions which were hardly ideal for either bowlers or fielders, Chris Woakes stuck to his task to finish with 5 for 63 from 16 overs, and Keith Barker offered fine support in taking 3 for 52.
True, the shot selection of some of the Lancashire batsmen helped the seamers: Andrea Agathangelou, for example, made 48 off 62 balls before perishing when playing an expansive drive on the stroke of lunch. But others were got out in admirable fashion: Ashwell Prince was caught behind for a second ball duck when Woakes compelled a shot at the beginning of the afternoon session. The best innings was played by Paul Horton, whose 253-minute 83 was a monument to his patience and craftsmanship; but far too few Lancashire batsmen were truly got out by for the comfort of home supporters.
All of which may prompt Lancashire supporters to urge their officials to appoint a new coach as soon as reasonably possible after Moores relinquishes his duties at the end of this game. There is, of course, no shortage of qualified candidates on the current staff at Old Trafford.
Academy director John Stanworth and second team coach Gary Yates are just two of them, and already many Red Rose supporters are pressing the claims of the current skipper Chapple. Watkinson acknowledged Chapple’s expertise as a Level 4 coach, but having quickly ruled himself out of contention – “I’m only wearing a tracksuit because it’s cold,” he quipped – the he counselled caution and careful thought before any decision is made.
“Glen is a very experienced captain and he’s developing his coaching role, too,” he said. “It’s his dressing room but he is also our go-to cricketer and he would find it tough to spend hours in the nets as well. His leadership role will not be diluted and it may well be strengthened, certainly in the short term. He’ll play a major part in selecting the team as he has now, and he has a hunger to play but he also has a great passion for the next chapter of his life.
“We appointed someone Paul Downton described yesterday as the best coach of his generation and he’s done a great job for us in the last five years. We need to make sure we don’t lose momentum. What that looks like in the months and years ahead we’ve yet to determine. We need to make sure that everything remains on an even keel during the run of matches we have coming up.
“If we wanted to do a thorough, robust recruitment process now, it would take months. Getting through to the end of the season and maintaining our aims and objectives as they are now is our priority. I spoke to the players this morning and I told them that we will do everything we can to make sure they have the resources they need. There will be a coach with the team at Northampton next week.”