Anybody who saw Simon Kerrigan, now Lancashire’s senior spinner and a 2013 Ashes winner, take County Championship hauls of 5-7 against Warwickshire and 9-51 against Hampshire in 2011 can testify that the county have one heck of a bowler on their hands.
The left-arm spinner from Preston only played four matches during 2011, but his 24-wicket contribution as the second spinner was vital to their success.
If the capture of five wickets in the second innings at Edgbaston in May left you speechless, it was nothing compared to his haul at Liverpool in early September when Lancashire’s title chances were hanging by the thinnest of threads.
The Red Rose had just over two sessions to bowl Hampshire out on a flat pitch in order to keep their title hopes alive going into the last week, and Keggsy, as he is otherwise known, came to the fore.
On the way to the club’s best figures since 1953, he clinched a ninth win of the season with just four minutes of the match to spare when he forced Neil McKenzie to edge to Tom Smith at second slip.
It was a spell that coach Peter Moores described as “world-class”.
Either side of that Hampshire haul, he gained international recognition in the form of a handful of one-day appearances for the England Lions and then a place in the elite group of England Performance Programme players for the tough winter’s training schedule in India, where he returned with the same squad in the build-up to 2013.
The wicket of South African McKenzie also earned him the Champagne Moment award at the club’s annual awards ceremony at the end of the season.
And all of this from a chap who started out his career at Fulwood and Broughton as a medium pacer!
It also led to him being chosen ahead of veteran Gary Keedy as the club’s first choice spinner for 2012. And although the campaign ended in relegation from the Championship’s top tier, Kerrigan excelled with 44 wickets at 34.81 in a wet summer which did not suit spinners.
Kerrigan, who only played three 40-over matches in 2012 and no Twenty20s, took a total of 57 first-class wickets in the calendar year, including a six-wicket haul for the Lions against Australia A at Old Trafford in early August. It was his first-class debut for England’s second string.
Another of the club’s Academy graduates, Kerrigan signed professional terms ahead of the 2009 season, but got his chance at the start of 2010 when fellow left-armer Keedy, now at Surrey, broke his collarbone.
He quickly found his feet with a debut Championship five-for against Warwickshire, taking six against Essex shortly afterwards and then five against county champions Nottinghamshire in the final week of the season. All three hauls came at Old Trafford.
He finished the campaign with 30 wickets at 32.23, also claiming eleven wickets in his debut Twenty20 campaign and being named as Lancashire’s Young Player of the Year.
Kerrigan has played his club cricket for Liverpool Competition side Ormskirk in recent years, and was Lancashire’s leading wicket-taker in second-team cricket in 2009, giving him the perfect platform to make the step up the following summer.
He also spent some time bowling to the full England squad in the nets in the build-up to a Test match at Edgbaston during 2010 and again during the latter stages of 2011 in Dubai ahead of the senior Test tour to India.
Kerrigan went to Australia on a one-day tour with the Lions in the build-up to the 2013 summer, in which he excelled with 57 wickets from 13 Championship matches at 20.89 and finished it as the leading spinner in the country.
He took successive seven-wicket hauls against Northamptonshire away and Glamorgan at home, and it was form that earned him a place in England’s full team for the fifth Ashes Test at the Oval in August.
Things did not quite work out as hoped as, aged 24, he returned first-innings figures of 0-53 from eight overs. But he still picked up a series winner’s medal as England won it 3-0.
Kerrigan may have missed out on a winter Ashes tour spot as a result of his disappointing display, but it did not soften his belief that a long and successful international career awaits him in the future.
He is Lancashire’s first Academy product to have played international cricket, and he came close to a second Test appearance when, in 2014, he was called up to the squad for the second Test against India at Lord’s by Moores.
Kerrigan took 44 wickets from 16 Championship matches in 2014, also scoring a crucial 14 not out in a match-winning tenth-wicket stand of 17 with Tom Smith as Lancashire chased just 107 to beat Durham at Emirates Old Trafford in August. He also claimed eight wickets in the match.
Graham Hardcastle (c) Lancashire CCC Ltd