Karl Brown – ‘Winning the Championship was my best experience on a cricket field’

(Credit: Luke Adams, @chronicleladams)

You can count on two hands the players that have won both the County Championship and a one-day trophy with Lancashire.

Given some of the names that have achieved so much with the club – Clive Lloyd, Wasim Akram, Neil Fairbrother – that is some achievement.

In fact, only seven names have the honour of winning both the 2011 County Championship and the 2015 T20 Blast titles.

Two of them, Steven Croft and Stephen Parry, still play for the club today.

Four of them – Simon Kerrigan, Tom Smith, Luke Procter and Paul Horton – have since either retired or left the club.

Glen Chapple captained the side to 2011 success and although he was in the squad for the 2015 T20 season, he never made an appearance in a matchday squad.

The other name is Karl Brown, the man present at the non-strikers end at Taunton in 2011 as Steven Croft hit the winning runs to secure Lancashire the County Championship title.

That season was a breakthrough one for Brown, the batsman making over 1000 runs.

He made 33 in the final game of the season as part of a crucial 78 run partnership with close friend Croft.

Brown said of the winning moment: “It was probably the best experience I’ve had on a cricket field.

“Just the feeling that was around on the day, knowing we could possibly win it, I don’t think that’s something you can feel every day.

“It is a day that none of us will ever forget.”

At the beginning of the season, Lancashire were cast as relegation certainties.

Their plans to redevelop home ground Old Trafford were challenged by rival developer Derwent Holdings, to the point where the club almost ran out of funds completely.

They split their home games between Liverpool’s Aigburth ground, Southport and Blackpool, with Brown feeling that they turned the Liverpool ground into a fortress.

“It was just one of those seasons where everything fell into place,” the 30-year-old said.

“We were at Liverpool a lot of the time that season which we made into a home.”

One particularly memorable game at Liverpool was the penultimate game of the season & the visit of relegation threatened Hampshire.

Lancashire went into the last 45 minutes needing just one more wicket to take a much needed victory – fail to do so and the chance of the title would most probably have gone, with Warwickshire having won their game.

South African Neil McKenzie batted stoically at one end, meaning with just two overs left Lancashire still hadn’t wrapped up the game.

Brown explained: “To be honest we’d almost forgotten about getting Neil out because he was playing so well, so we were just focusing on getting the wickets at the other end.

“James Tomlinson came in batting at 11 and he genuinely is a number 11.

“We were thinking: ‘Surely he can’t last very long?’

“He actually played really well so we were struggling to get him and McKenzie out, but we thought with Tomlinson there we’d get a chance.”

The key came in the penultimate over, Simon Kerrigan bowling his 38th over of what had surely been the longest of days for everyone involved with Lancashire.

He took the prized wicket of McKenzie with his first ball, caught at slip by Tom Smith, his ninth wicket of the innings, to clinch career-best figures of 9-51.

The fact that two Lancastrians combined to take the final wicket perhaps summed up Lancashire’s season.

Given the lack of funds, they relied mainly on home grown players and Sri Lankan overseas signing, Farveez Maharoof.

Brown said: “At the start of the season we got written off by a lot of people and quite a lot of us were good mates in the team so that helped.

“We had a really good overseas in Farveez who fit in really well, and it was just one of the seasons were everything fell in place.

“We played some really good cricket.”

Lancashire would unfortunately taste relegation from the Championship the following season before bouncing straight back to the top division a year later.

2014 was then a tumultuous season for the club, one which started with coach Peter Moores leaving to take the vacant England post and ended with another relegation.

Glen Chapple agreed to take Moores’s place until the end of the season, and it was in the T20 where the team had the most success.

Credit: Luke Adams, @chronicleladams

They topped the north group to reach the quarter-finals, a Jordan Clark triple wicket maiden inspiring them to victory over Glamorgan at Old Trafford.

That meant a first Finals Day appearance since 2011, where they faced familiar rivals Hampshire in the semi finals.

The Red Rose had to recover from a horror start, losing Tom Smith and overseas signing Usman Khawaja in the first over before the rain set in.

When the game resumed, it was up to Ashwell Prince, Croft and Brown to steady the ship.

Brown explained: “We had a tricky start so it was quite important that we rebuilt.

“We were luckily able to do that and we got a score on the board.

“Everybody talks about momentum and going into our innings bowling wise we’d been put in a position where we thought we had nothing to lose because we almost lost the game that early.

“We were able to pull ourselves back into it, our spinners bowled unbelievably well (during the chase) and Hampshire ended up getting nowhere near it.”

The win meant Brown and Lancashire would contest the final against Warwickshire, a game they eventually fell short in by an agonising four runs.

And Brown said of the final: “I think in a one-off game anything can happen.

“There were a few things that didn’t go our way, they scored a lot in the last five overs.

“We got close in the end but I think if we’d had a better last five overs bowling wise we might have got over the line.

“Laurie Evans played a good innings and that probably won them the game.”

Brown in action at Old Trafford (Credit: Luke Adams, @chronicleladams)

One of the more memorable moments from that game was a batting cameo from former England all rounder Andrew Flintoff, who had made a return to cricket that year after a five year absence.

He hit 20 in the batting innings and had earlier taken the wicket of Ian Bell – bowled Flintoff, caught Karl Brown.

On Flintoff’s impact, Brown commented: “It was brilliant for all the lads to have him involved.

“None of us were sure how much of a part he would play, then injuries meant that he ended up playing.

“That cameo at the end showed he hadn’t lost any of his ability.”

Fast forward a year and Lancashire were at Edgbaston once again for finals day, having scraped through the group stages on the last day of the campaign.

Their form improved as the competition went on, typified by a commanding win over Yorkshire at Old Trafford in the Roses match, where Brown hit 69 off 35 balls as part of a club record score of 231/4.

“It was an unbelievable pitch that day, one of the best I’ve ever played on,” Brown said.

“It felt like we needed well over 200 to win the game, 200 would have been about par and we ended up going quite a long way past that.

“You’re never quite sure what is a really good score but when you get 230 on the board you’re always going to have a chance.”

The Red Rose again beat Hampshire in the semi finals, setting up a tie with Northamptonshire in the final.

Lancashire batted first this time and posted a solid total of 166/7.

Northants always seemed to be slightly behind the rate and eventually fell short, posting 153/6 despite the attempted heroics of Pakistan’s Shahid Afridi (26 off 18).

And Brown said of the bowling innings: “We knew that Afridi was the big wicket and when we got him (in the 18th over) that was the moment we realised we were in with a good chance.

“As long as he was in, we knew he could take the game away from us at any point so that wicket was massive.

“Livi (Liam Livingstone) took the catch and that was massive in the context of the game.

“Our biggest strength in both years was the spinners, if you have spinners bowling well in T20 cricket you’re always in with a shout.

“We had a really good way of playing the game, everyone read the game pretty well and we were effective in different conditions.”