Watkinson – Lancs can deliver county championship title

By Barrie White

Lancashire legend and current director of cricket Mike Watkinson has backed the class of 2011 to deliver the county’s first outright championship in 77 years.

The Red Rose county have topped the table for most of the season and put themselves in pole position after a huge victory over rivals Warwickshire at Blackpool in August.

But they dropped to third place after last week’s horror show against Worcestershire, where they were beaten by ten wickets in just two days.

In between, Lancashire suffered a controversial defeat at the hands of Leicestershire in the Friends Life t20 semi-finals where they lost in the one over eliminator after a tie.  

However, Watkinson believes that defeat is out of their system and expects the team to be focussed for the final two championship matches, starting at Liverpool on Wednesday.

“We’re still in a good position with two games to go – it just puts a little bit of pressure on those last two matches,” said Watkinson, who played four tests for England. 

“Looking around the games around the country, there are a lot of teams battling at the bottom and teams battling for the championship so there’s interesting games. 

“Warwickshire came unstuck the week before last and it was our turn this week but we need to pull ourselves together. 

“We don’t think it’s a follow-on from the 20/20 final – we got that out the way with a good win at Notts on Monday.

“Hopefully next week at Liverpool when we take on Hampshire, we can put things right again.

“What would be equally satisfying is the way we’ve done it with a team of young Lancastrians who are hungry to do well for the county.”

Watkinson – who became director of cricket in 2008 – accepts that part of Lancashire’s success this year can be put down to county matches being played away from Old Trafford.

The famous old venue is due to undergo the next stage of massive refurbishment – after a long legal battle – with work on the new player and media facilities beginning today.

He feels a significant factor in Lancashire’s charge for the title is that county championship fixtures have been shared around Liverpool, Southport and Blackpool.

But, with the 2013 Ashes series looming on the horizon, Watkinson is also keen for the cricketing world to see the changes being made to the club he’s been at all his life.

“Playing away from Old Trafford has been a factor this year because the pitches we’ve played on have progressed matches and we’ve had fewer draws,” he said. 

“We’ve played good cricket as well and Liverpool has been a good venue.  We’ve invested in it, and worked closely with the people at Liverpool and we’ve got a good team off the field now. 

“It’s a good venue to put games on so to have our last home game there, after moving it from Old Trafford for a few reasons, we’re looking forward to a cracking game there.

“We want to be known as having the best facilities in international cricket and we’re well on the way to producing that.

“For somebody who’s grown up at Old Trafford as a young player making his debut in 1982, to see the ground grow to what it will be in two seasons will be fantastic.” 

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