Celebrate a century of county cricket at Blackpool

Blackpool's Lancashire star Steven Croft
Blackpool's Lancashire star Steven Croft
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It’s 100 years since a Lancashire cricket team first graced Blackpool with their presence and that’s just one reason why the arrival of the Red Rose county to the town on July 29 is a landmark date.

Lancashire take on Middlesex in the Royal London 50-over Cup at Stanley Park, and it is hardly surprising therefore that Blackpool Cricket Club officials are pulling out all the stops to make that day a runaway success.

In what is the first visit by Lancashire to the famous, historic ground since a County Championship fixture against Worcester in 2011, there is plenty at stake.

For it could pave the way for the tantalising and appealing prospect of a four-day fixture coming back to the ground not too far down the stretch.

That’s the hope of all at Stanley Park, not least groundsman Chris Mackay, whose pitch will come under close scrutiny.

The 64-year-old Mackay has been at Blackpool, working full time in the role, since joining from neighbours St Annes CC, and he is confident that the pitch will measure up to county standards.

He said: “To a large extent we are at the hands of the weather, but I believe we will produce a hard, fast wicket, with a lot of runs.”

It has been a long, hard but determined road for Blackpool to get a county match and much credit must surely go to Mackay, who has worked hard on the county assignment the full-backing of the Blackpool committee.

And if Mackay is feeling any pressure as the big day looms ever larger, he certainly doesn’t show it.

He said: “To be honest when I first started working here, things were in a pretty poor state.

“The people who originally built the ground were very clever and made the playing surface with a camber, rather like a crown green bowling arena, and we have tried to get it back to what it was then.

“A lot of work has been done on things like the drainage system, and I have had great support from (chairman) Dave Cresswell - without him none of this would have happened.”

To put it mildly, the elements haven’t been entire kind over the spring and summer period, as Mackay will amply testify.

He said: “It started off cold with a lot of rain and as a result of that the grass wasn’t growing - then it became dry on top, but underneath the surface was still wet, so it was 
difficult to make it half-decent.

“The heavy rain we got didn’t help, but now everything is fine, and it is not as though I haven’t had experience of preparing pitches for county sides.

“When I worked at St Annes, I prepared pitches for Lancashire second team and the Namibian national team were here the other week to play the county second XI.”

There has been a visit to Stanley Park by the Lancashire head groundsman Matt Merchant, but reading between the lines, it would certainly appear as though he is happy with what he has seen.

Mackay said: “He was fine with everything, and he wanted to make sure he got his cup of tea!”

And looking ahead to the visit of Middlesex, Mackay said, with more than a touch of ironic humour: “They play down a hill at Lords, so they will not be use to our standard.

“Our ground has no big slope like theirs, it’s more like a gentle camber.....”

He added: “This match is what we have been working towards for three years, and it has taken a lot of investment from the club in time and money, and the next phase of the plan is to get Lancashire here in a four-day game.”