Watkinson demands focus
Lancashire began the second day of their crucial LV County Championship Division One match against Surrey under strict instruction to forget events elsewhere and concentrate on winning at the Brit Oval.
The Red Rose wilted on Wednesday as Mark Ramprakash finished unbeaten on 180 out of a total of 374 for six.
Lancashire’s hopes of clinching a first outright championship title since 1934 receded, while rivals Sussex and Durham made stealthy progress as they try to overturn the leaders’ advantage in this final round of matches.
But Lancashire cricket manager Mike Watkinson made it clear his charges will not be diverted by events further afield, at either Hove or Canterbury.
“We’ve not really been taking much notice of that, which I think is the right way to approach it,” he said.
“The lads are on the field all the time, and it means it’s not a case of sending messages backwards and forwards about other scores.
“We know we just need to get another (bowling) bonus point in this game and stay in the match as much as we can.”
Watkinson’s rationale is that Lancashire can expect at least one of their challengers to win their last match - and therefore they need to do likewise, irrespective of bonus points, to stay in front.
“Everybody approaches things a little bit differently,” he conceded.
“But I think going into this game, we felt that one of the other sides who could win it would probably force a victory - so unless there is severe weather around, we had to approach this game with that mentality.”
On the plus side for Lancashire is the continued, improved bowling form of Sajid Mahmood (3-62), who could not shift Surrey rock Ramprakash but did help to keep his team competitive.
“He’s bowled with good pace,” said Watkinson. “He’s had his hernia operation in the middle of the summer, which came at a bad time, because he was in top form at that stage.
“It’s taken him a few weeks to get back into the swing of things. But in the last couple of games, he’s performed very well.”
Lancashire nonetheless found themselves needing to make quick inroads on the second morning morning, having failed to run out Ramprakash on nought early on Wednesday.
Watkinson admitted the chance - Paul Horton failed to gather a throw from Mahmood - was one which he would hope to see taken “more often than not”.
“I think perhaps the crucial moment of the day was not running Ramps out when we had a chance to do that,” he added.
“The form he’s in, the type of player he is, he booked himself in for a day’s batting.”
Ramprakash therefore began day two with his highest score against Lancashire already in the bag, a 13th double-century in prospect - and the hope of reaching a second triple to post 2,000 runs for the second consecutive season.