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Player Profile - Croft
Steven Croft (15)

Full Name Steven Croft
Nickname Crofty
DoB 11th October 1984
Height 5' 11
Bats/Bowls Right hand/Right arm fast-medium
Shirt Number 15
Lancashire Academy 2003, Scholarship 2004-5. Debut 2005, Cap 2010
Tests 0
ODI 0
Profile
Steven Croft will always go down in Lancashire folklore as the man who hit the winning runs to secure County Championship glory for the first time in 77 years when he did it on the fourth day against Somerset at Taunton in 2011.

It was a moment that was part of a stunning campaign for the all action all-rounder, who bats in the top order, bowls either off-spin or medium pace and fields like a demon.

Croft has also had experience of first-team captaincy in 2011, 2012 and 2013, leading the county in all forms of the game as a stand-in for Glen Chapple.

Having scored his maiden Championship ton in 2008, he added his maiden one-day ton in 40-over cricket in 2011.

Two more tons followed in the Championship that season, the first of those against Warwickshire at Liverpool being only the second of his career and first since 2008. He went on to score another against Worcestershire in the next match, which was on his home ground at Blackpool.

Croft, who finished with 825 runs, also took more stunning catches than you can remember, whether they be in the slips or at backward point.

He is a player who has developed his career alongside the growth of Twenty20 cricket, but has ensured he can succeed in all formats with determination and hard work.

And his development continued at pace in 2012, with him named as the clubís Player of the Year at the end of season awards dinner.

Captaining the side for the first time in the Championship against Surrey to round the campaign off, he scored 666 runs from 16 matches, including two hundreds and two fifties. After scoring 113 against Somerset in a weather-affected April draw at Taunton, his career best 154 not out came against Surrey at Guildford in July, that also finishing in a weather-affected draw.

He claimed career best bowling figures of 6-41 in the defeat against Worcestershire at Old Trafford to demonstrate his off-spin is an improving art.

Croft also scored 513 40-over runs and 313 from eight Twenty20s, leaving him amongst the top five run-scorers in the country. As a result, he was named in Englandís provisional 30-man squad for the World Twenty20 at the end of the summer, although he did not make the final cut of 15.

But further reward was on its way as he earned a winter deal to play Twenty20 cricket for Northern Districts (Northern Knights) alongside Scott Styris and Essex wicketkeeper James Foster in New Zealand.

Unfortunately, 2013 did not quite go to plan as he found himself out of the Championship team due to patchy form with the bat. He only played eight matches. And although he scored one hundred and two fifties, the century came as a match against Hampshire drifted to a draw during the final day at Southampton.

Croft arrived on Lancashire's academy in 2003, was awarded a scholarship in 2004 and made his first-class debut for the county at Oxford University in 2005.

He burst on to the first-team scene with a bang in 2006 by hitting the last ball of a Twenty20 match against Leicestershire at Grace Road for six over cover to secure an unlikely win.

And he did the same again in 2008 by crashing Graham Onions in the same direction to win a 50-over Trophy match against Durham at Old Trafford.

Mind you, he has always had a liking for the spectacular. Just ask Michael Vaughan, who was the victim of a stunning one-handed catch at deep mid-wicket during a Twenty20 Cup Roses match at Old Trafford in 2009.

It was a catch that won him the club's Champagne Moment award, which he had also picked up in 2007.

Despite playing his cricket at Blackpool from an early age - he is still on the Northern League side's committee - he first picked up a bat and ball in Sri Lanka because of his father's work commitments.

He was the first of the club's academy products to be given a professional contract ahead of his first-class debut in 2005.

After holding down a regular place in the Championship side in 2007 - batting at number three at times - he won the Young Player of the Year award.

But he trumped that the following year by winning the main award thanks to 522 Championship runs, including a maiden ton against Nottinghamshire (122), and 16 wickets. He also hit 279 from 13 one-day matches and took 14 wickets, more than anybody else.

Croft's form prompted an overseas deal to arrive for the winter of 2008/9 with Auckland Aces in New Zealand, where he impressed as they won the four-day title. But he struggled on his return to England, only playing eight Championship matches in 2009.

Maybe the fact that he struggled so much in 2009 prompted him to think seriously about adding another string to his bow, which came in the form of bowling off-spin on the advice of VVS Laxman and Mal Loye, who had seen promise on that front in the nets.

It turned out he only used his medium pace briefly in 2010, not at all in 2011 and briefly in 2012.

He started 2010 like a train with the bat, with his first six innings in all competitions yielding five fifties. He ended the season as the club's leading Championship run-scorer with 883 and a place in England's Hong Kong Sixes squad too.

Then came the most memorable season of his career to date, which he capped off by winning the one-day Player of the Year for the second time after doing so in 2008.

Despite the disappointment of 2013, it would be no surprise to see him bounce back and feature heavily in the 2014 Championship campaign.

Graham Hardcastle
(c) Copyright Lancashire County Cricket Club Ltd
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