Rather like Charles II, Lancashire were an unconscionable time a-dying at the Ageas Bowl. However, they eventually joined Division Two's ten-strong choir invisible just after two o'clock on the second day, when a very quick ball thudded into Saqib Mahmood's pads and Ian Gould raised his finger. It little mattered that Nottinghamshire were collapsing at Trent Bridge. Lancashire will now be relegated regardless of the results in this final round of games. The post mortems can begin.
The enquiries will probably be lengthy and explore everything from the management structure at Emirates Old Trafford to the reason why pies are served upside down in the pavilion. Actually the debates could be quite brief. For burghers of strong mind they could begin with the following list of scores: 60 for 4, 73 all out, 109 for 7, 105 all out, 130 all out, 109 for 9, 106 for 6, 99 all out, 95 for 7. That is batting from the black museum. Yet it is what Lancashire's players have put together in nine of their 23 innings this season.
Even in a summer when batting long seemed unfashionable a team could not prosper if it made totals like those. There have been too many soft dismissals, too many scrambled minds, too many shots selected without regard for the state of the game. No one has scored over 800 runs in the Championship. There have been matches this season when the Venezuelan economy has appeared more stable than the batting of Lancashire's top and middle-order.
But hold hard for a moment. In three successive Championship matches this season, Lancashire batted just once. Their totals in those games were 439, 492 for 9 declared and 338. However, they won only one of those matches, away at Nottinghamshire. Their batting has not been dreadful all the time. There is, indeed, a persuasive argument that whenever Lancashire have had a poor session they have lost the game whereas whenever they have held the upper hand they have, except on two occasions, failed to press home the advantage.
This is not to argue that Lancashire are unfortunate to be relegated. Neither Glen Chapple nor Mark Chilton would tolerate such soft-minded twaddle. It is merely to point out that they have, like Worcestershire, played some good cricket and that neither county has been cut adrift at the bottom as Warwickshire were last summer and Nottinghamshire in the previous year.
Indeed, Lancashire revealed their powers of resistance on this second day when their last six wickets added 150 runs and they finished just 27 short of the 300 runs that may have led to their survival. Their refusal to fold was the more commendable given that things had ventured south as early as the seventh ball of the day when Fidel Edwards produced a snorting yorker which uprooted Liam Livingstone's off stump before the Lancashire skipper had digested his eggs benedict.
Having taken a wicket by conventional means, Edwards then adopted a form of leg theory which involved posting a short leg, a leg slip, a long stop, a fine leg and a deep square leg. It was a not-so-cunning plan but, as Edmund Blackadder observed in respect of the system of alliances prior to World War One, it had one crucial weakness: it was total bollocks. Rob Jones twice hooked Edwards both dexterously and Dexterishly for successive boundaries.
Helped by this well-judged aggression Lancashire had secured their first batting bonus point before Jones was leg before to Ian Holland for a fine 68, his first half-century in the Championship for over two years. Josh Bohannon and Tom Bailey then bagged a second point before Hampshire's opening attack took the new ball and cleaned up Lancashire's tail in 16 deliveries. The rest of the day was taken up with Livingstone's bowlers performing as well as they have for most of the season. It should be enough to clinch a third victory of the season early on Wednesday. Meanwhile Nottinghamshire were losing at Trent Bridge. Beat that with an ironic stick.
Only two of the eight Hampshire wickets to fall in the second innings were taken by Bailey, who has been Lancashire's player of the year. His 62 wickets are a major achievement but his development has been greatly assisted by Graham Onions, who has dismissed 57 batsmen and been one of the club's best signings in recent years. Although not playing in the current game, Onions will be hurting this week. He, like Dane Vilas, is an inspirational figure, one from whom Lancashire's younger players can learn so much. And Vilas' resolve has been reflected in the cricket of Josh Bohannon, whose batting has been a highlight of the late summer. Bohannon and Vilas frequently give the impression they would prefer to undergo root canal work without anaesthetic than give their wickets away. It is that type of obduracy which wins some games, as against Worcestershire at Southport, and encourages team-mates to win others.
As to the future some of Lancashire's batsmen must rediscover the concentration needed to bat long. The county's bowling is not in bad order. Matt Parkinson is emerging as a fine legspinner and should be given more opportunities while also being told that his other disciplines must improve. But the ability to bat six hours for 120 runs in testing conditions is a rare and wonderful skill. (Ian Bell showed quite how wonderful at Hove last week.) And if young cricketers need another example from whom they might learn such skills they could do worse than copy the application shown by a batsman who played his last professional innings this perfect afternoon at the Rose Bowl.
Hampshire's Jimmy Adams made 13 before he was leg before to Richard Gleeson. He ended his 16-year career with 14,145 first-class runs, 194 of which were made against Lancashire over 635 minutes of concentrated effort at Aigburth some eight summers ago. Few of those who saw that innings, which was played on a sporting pitch, should have forgotten it. Nor should they forget the moment this afternoon when Rob Jones ran from slip to shake the hand of a player over 15 years his senior. Even in a day of event and consequence it was the most beautiful and memorable moment. Relegations, after all, come and go. But this was the afternoon when Adams left the green fields of praise for good. As he did so his team mates gave him a guard of the greatest honour. And when Adams reached the top of the pavilion steps he hugged his dad.