Simon Kerrigan has returned to familiar territory as he bids to further his career with both country and county.
The Lancashire left-arm spinner is in Australia on a five-week tour with the Lions squad, starting in Melbourne.
Kerrigan spent two spells playing grade cricket in Melbourne with the South Caulfield club during the winters of 2009/10 and 2010/11, taking a total of 32 wickets for them.
The Lions squad departed last week - and after three warm-up matches against Victoria’s second and first teams, they will play a five-match one-day series against Australia A at Hobart and Sydney between February 16 and March 1. Their first match of the tour is on Thursday against Victoria seconds.
After finishing as Lancashire’s leading wicket-taker in last season’s County Championship with 44 - his first campaign as the number one spinner - Kerrigan has enjoyed a busy winter within the national set-up.
He travelled to Dubai in October to help England’s Test squad warm-up for their successful tour of India before flying to India himself with the Performance Programme squad in November.
Kerrigan only played three List A matches for the Lightning last year, but he has impressed the Lions management enough during recent seasons to earn a place in their current tour party.
And he need not look too far for an example of how quickly a career can progress, with former Lions colleague and Yorkshire batsman Joe Root graduating to full colours in all three formats this winter.
“Most of the people I have played for the Lions with have gone on to play international cricket. Joe Root was expecting to get called up, he did and he took his chance. So you never know what could happen,” said Kerrigan, who is also hoping his time in Oz can help boost his Lancashire career too.
“When I was in India I kept myself as positive as I could and made sure I was bowling well because I knew if anything did happen to Graeme Swann or Monty Panesar, I may have been given my chance.
“I don’t really know where I am in the pecking order. All I can do is carry on bowling well and not worry about it. If I keep doing well, I can’t be too far away.
“This Lions tour will be in a lot different conditions than India. Watching the Big Bash (Twenty20 League), some of the wickets do spin, but they are pretty flat, so you need different skills. But I haven’t played too much one-day cricket, so it is going to be another great learning experience for me.
“I feel confident with the red ball, but I want to broaden my options with the white ball. With Keeds having gone, there is me, Pazza, Arron Lilley and Crofty, so there could be a chance to get more of a go in one-day cricket for Lancashire. And if I do well on the Lions tour, it can push my selection chances for this summer.”
As well as taking 44 wickets for Lancashire, Kerrigan also snared a brilliant 6-59 for the Lions in a four-day draw against Australia A at Old Trafford in August.
Despite Lancashire’s Championship relegation, 2012 will be a season he looks back fondly on when the time comes to hang up his boots years down the line.
But, on the other hand, he knows there is still plenty of hard work to be done to stave off the challenge from Stephen Parry and Arron Lilley for his Red Rose shirt: “It was great to get the opportunity to be No.1 spinner last year,” he added. “The pressure is different, but as the year went on I developed as an all-round bowler, especially on flatter wickets. But I know we have Lilley and Parry who are top spinners too. If I don’t perform, then they will be challenging me all the way.
“That’s what has been good at Lancashire over the last few years. There has been so much competition for the spot among the spinners, you know you have to be on your game otherwise someone will take your place.
“When I got my debut when Keeds broke his collarbone, it could quite easily have been Pazza who was given the nod instead of me. He has different strengths than me, and we work well together.
“You look at his second-team stats, he is second to none. It is a jump, but he is more than capable because of the experience he has got in one-day cricket.
“Arron is a really good prospect. He is an off-spinner, so adds some variety. He is tall and gets a lot of revs on the ball. This is his first year as a professional, so he will learn a lot. But there is no doubt that if he got chucked into a game he could do the business.”
Photo: Simon Pendrigh