THIS weekend Lancashire should have been starting a four-day County Championship game against their Roses rivals Yorkshire at Scarborough, but as with all sport cricket has been put on hold due to the Covid-19 pandemic, writes Garry Clarke.

But did you know that 156 years ago this week, on June 15 and 16, 1864, Lancashire played their first-ever official game – with the match being played in Warrington?

Following the formation of eight county cricket sides, the leading clubs in Lancashire organised a meeting at the Queens Hotel, Manchester, on January 12, 1864, the object of which was ‘to consider the propriety of forming a county cricket club, with the view of spreading a thorough knowledge and appreciation of the game’.

Thirteen Lancashire cricket clubs were represented and Lancashire County Cricket Club was formed.

The clubs were Manchester, Broughton, Western, Longsight, Liverpool, Northern, Huyton, Ashton, Blackburn, Accrington, Wigan, Whalley and Oldham.

Home matches were to be held alternately at Old Trafford, Liverpool, Preston and Blackburn and ‘other places’ to help introduce good cricket throughout the county. And Warrington Cricket Club’s Bank Hall ground was chosen to host their inaugural game, due to the town’s central location.

The oldest cricket club in Cheshire, Birkenhead Park, who had previously played against the MCC at Lords and Surrey at the Oval, joined forces with the Gentlemen of Cheshire to oppose Lancashire in their first game.

The game ended in a draw with Lancashire scoring 169 and 78 in their two innings, while their opponents scored 143 in their first innings and were on the verge of victory being just 15 runs short of their target when play drew to a close.

A return fixture was played a month later at Park Drive in Birkenhead which also ended in a draw and 12 months later in July 1865 Lancashire played their first ever first-class county fixture, hosting Middlesex at Old Trafford.

The Warrington venue for the historic encounter was in the grounds of Bank Hall, the home of Warrington Cricket Club until 1873 when the land owner John Wilson-Pattern (Lord Winmarleigh) sold the hall and grounds to Warrington Corporation, who established offices and a public park forcing the cricket club to relocate to Arpley Meadows before moving to their present home at Walton in 1968.

Nowadays, Bank Hall is Warrington Town Hall and its grounds, Bank Park.