Glen Chapple: county champion
Posted in Domestic Cricket
When Lancashire captain Glen Chapple strode to the crease on a dank Liverpool afternoon last Wednesday, his side’s now realised County Championship dreams were hanging by a thread.
On the back of a 10-wicket humbling inside five sessions at Worcestershire, the Red Rose had fallen to 183 for six on day one against a Hampshire seam attack enjoying helpful conditions and scenting blood.
By the close Chapple had amassed 76 of an eventual 97. Lancashire would make 388 to lay the foundation for Simon Kerrigan’s 9-61 final-day spin heroics and victory with four minutes to spare.
As the prospect of a first century for seven years was discussed on the first evening – he eventually missed out by virtue of a selfless punt to long-on – Chapple was typically concerned with his duty to his team-mates and their ultimate goal.
“I just want to start again in the morning and get as many as I can for the team,” said the 37-year-old five-time championship runner-up. “I want to make a score for the lads. We’ve been working hard all season and I think I’m a bit under par for the runs I’d normally get.”
Over a Lancashire career spanning the best part of two decades, Chapple has never been the superstar - always a man willing to strain every sinew for the decorated talents with whom he shared a dressing room before outlasting them all.
An England A standout without a Test cap whose solitary ODI appearance against Ireland was truncated by injury, his early career at Lancashire was embroidered with the limited-overs success the club had long since become accustomed to.
The Skipton-born seamer brought cheer to the west side of the Pennines in 1996 when his devastating burst of 6-18 reduced Essex to rubble in the NatWest Trophy final. But as Michael Atherton and John Crawley made way for Stuart Law and Brad Hodge, as Muttiah Muralitharan took up Wasim Akram’s mantle as Old Trafford’s overseas darling and Andrew Flintoff set about becoming a national institution, the championship title still eluded Lancashire.
By the time coach Peter Moores arrived in Manchester for the 2009 season the coffers were dry and in-demand international luminaries were the preserve of other counties. Almost without hesitation Moores appointed Chapple captain.
Taking cues from their veteran leader, a side reared almost exclusively in the Lancashire League’s school of hard knocks became a well-drilled unit with a belief they would make a mockery of their footnote status in the summer 2011 previews.
Starting in the shadow of Aigburth’s picturesque Victorian pavilion that became the symbol of their title charge with Old Trafford indisposed, Chapple roared his team forward with nine wickets in the innings defeat of Sussex.
There followed numerous examples of a cricketer seemingly on a mission to end Lancashire’s 77 years of hurt through sheer force of will.
Roses rivals Yorkshire were twice cut down to size – 25 suffocating Chapple overs cost just 31 runs as they failed to loosen an early stranglehold in Liverpool before a second-innings 5-71 from the visiting captain proved decisive in a Headingley thriller.
When defeat occasionally tripped up Lancashire’s challenge it was not without a serious argument from their skipper. Nottinghamshire claimed a 129-run win at Southport in July in the face of a second-day onslaught from Chapple that showed scant regard for his ageing limbs.
Relentless, unflinching toil produced 6-70 from 25 second-innings overs at Trafalgar Road. Slow-left-arm duo Kerrigan and Gary Keedy got through four between them.
After numerous nerve-shredding plot twists Lancashire’s date with destiny in Somerset arrived, only for disaster to strike on the first morning. The sinews strained once too far and Chapple pulled up with a suspected torn hamstring. Game over? He’d hear nothing of the sort.
Whenever the pain became tolerable, Chapple would hobble back to his mark and pound towards the crease. With the bat he skipped down the pitch to Murali Kartik and scampered the runs to secure maximum batting points. He would not be denied.
During a 50-minute final morning spell from Chapple – where a double success took his first-class wickets tally to 57 for the season and some sharp bouncers defied his physical struggles – it became clear that title favourites Warwickshire were themselves starting to become hamstrung at the Rose Bowl.
Somerset duo Peter Trego and Kartik provided lower-order headaches, but Lancashire openers Paul Horton and Stephen Moore went about the chase for victory with gusto. When they fell Lancashire academy products Karl Brown and Steven Croft crossed the finishing line emphatically.
As late summer sun drenched the Taunton afternoon, Lancashire’s heroes jumped up and down, soaking each other in champagne. A team in Chapple’s image, there’s not a superstar among them.
No doubt he’d have been leaping highest of all but for that pesky hamstring.