Lancashire County Cricket Club 2016: Season Review
On the surface, the 2016 campaign has not been a roaring success for Lancashire.
Not being able to reach either of the limited overs quarter-finals and finishing in the lower reaches of the Specsavers County Championship Division One, results could have certainly been better.
Hopes were raised after an impressive start to the four-day campaign, which saw Steven Croft’s men win three out of their first five matches and take the early lead in the title race.
They were also aiming to become the first ever county to defend the NatWest T20 Blast title, but that failed to materialise.
But, delve a bit deeper and things start to become much, much brighter.
At the start of the year, the main aim was for the Red Rose to retain their Division One status after relegation in 2012 and 2014.
Yes, the season may have tailed off, with injuries and unavailability also taking their toll, but top-flight status was retained.
In beating Nottinghamshire, Hampshire and Surrey, and later dominating a draw against the defending champions Yorkshire at Emirates Old Trafford, this group of players demonstrated that they can compete and thrive at the top of the English game.
Now, the challenge is for them to do it for a much longer period.
Ashley Giles and his coaching staff also blooded and developed a handful of young players who look to have big futures in the game, most notably opening batsman Haseeb Hameed.
The 19-year-old smashed a number of records in scoring 1,000 Championship runs in his first full year of first-team cricket, earning an England Test call-up for next month’s series in Bangladesh in the process.
He became the first ever teenaged opener in the history of the County Championship to score four hundreds in a season, two of which came in the home draw with Yorkshire last month.
He also became the youngest Lancastrian to post two hundreds in the same match against any opponent, he became the first to do it against Yorkshire and only the third for either side in that particular fixture.
The right-hander also became the youngest ever to post two hundreds in a first-class match played in England.
It is fair to assume that he will be on that stage in front of you at some point this evening.
Giles has handed Championship debuts to four homegrown youngsters this year; Rob Jones, Liam Livingstone, Saqib Mahmood and Matthew Parkinson.
And Jones, Livingstone and Parkinson all went on to either score hundreds or take a five-for at some point during the campaign.
Mahmood, meanwhile, graduated through to play one-day cricket for the England Lions this summer.
Livingstone impressed, particularly early on, in his first season of first-class cricket, and the Cumbrian batsman earned himself an England Lions one-day call along with praise from Yorkshire captain Andrew Gale, who described him as one of the domestic game’s brightest talents.
Leg-spinner Parkinson took his five-for against Warwickshire in the mid-season draw here at Emirates Old Trafford, while Jones opened the batting in the draw against leaders Middlesex a couple of weeks ago and led the recovery from 6-4 in reply to 327 with an exceptional century.
Securing the draw proved to be a vital result in the final reckonings as Lancashire preserved their Division One status.
The more experienced quartet of Kyle Jarvis, overseas bowler Neil Wagner, Alviro Petersen and Luke Procter all contributed significantly.
Petersen topped 1,000 Championship runs and Jarvis 50 wickets.
Captain Steven Croft deserves plenty of praise for taking on the wicketkeeping role for almost half of the season following injuries for regular glovemen Alex Davies and Jos Buttler.
Despite defeat, the nail-biting clash with Durham at Southport in July will take some beating for drama and excitement, with Lancashire almost pulling off a win which would have made the final few months of the campaign much more comfortable.