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Champions 2011

CHAMPIONS!

CHAMPIONS!

It's a very simple way of summing up what has been an exhilarating season for Lancashire.

For the first time since 1934, the Red Rose county are the outright kings of English cricket.

And what a ride it's been!

The above description is probably the most simple thing about Lancashire's 2011 LV= County Championship campaign, which has included more roller coasters than Blackpool Pleasure Beach.

Just think about wins over Yorkshire twice and Hampshire at Liverpool and then other matches against Sussex at Hove, Warwickshire at Liverpool and even the loss against Durham at Liverpool.

All were absolute crackers. And, while they may not all have gone the full four days, they were 'edge of your seat' jobs from first ball to last.

And that is not just an exclusive Championship thing either.

Who will ever forget that Super Over Eliminator, county cricket's first, against Leicestershire Foxes in the semi-final of the Friends Life t20 at Edgbaston in late August?

Even had Warwickshire been the ones lifting the Championship trophy at approximately 5.45pm last Thursday, this review would have still been written with a very positive tone because Lancashire were far from favourites to do what they did.

The vast majority outside the dressing room were predicting another barren year, which captain Glen Chapple admitted that he could understand because the club started 2011 with the smallest squad in recent memory, largely down to finances following a long and protracted legal battle over the ongoing redevelopment of Old Trafford.

That meant that the only non-overseas signing was Andrea Agathangelou, the Cypriot who did not play a first-team match in 2011 despite another excellent season in the seconds.

The early indication was that the club would have to do without an overseas player, but along came Sri Lankan all-rounder Farveez Maharoof, who quickly became a cult hero thanks to a debut hundred against Somerset.

And there was obviously a clear vision from within the four walls of the Lancashire dressing room that something special could be achieved.

Not only were they confident of gaining results at out-grounds in Liverpool, Southport and Blackpool, but the biggest thing was an unwavering confidence in each other.

There was an incredible team spirit and bond between the players, most of whom had grown up together through the age groups and into the second team.

You can also throw in a handful of experienced heads such as Chapple, former skipper Mark Chilton (thanks and good luck, Chilly!), left-arm spinner Gary Keedy and former Worcestershire opener Stephen Moore.

And you can also throw in a coach who is regarded by many as the best in the business in Peter Moores, who is now a double Championship winner, having claimed the 2003 title whilst at Sussex.

"The lads committed to every day, throwing their heart and soul into it," said Moores. "Putting on a Red Rose is special. It's about spirit, it's about belief, it's about skill, it's about hard work.

"It's been a special year because we had so many tight games, and different people stepped up when they needed to.

"It was a mixture of senior players setting an example and doing it when it really counts to young players coming in and doing more than you could expect that early in their career."

Chapple, the 37 year-old bowling all-rounder in his 20th season, led from the front. You lost count of the amount of times he was injured yet still bowled, Taunton being the obvious example.

And he joined Kyle Hogg and left-arm spinner Keedy as three bowlers to top 50 wickets for the campaign. It is the first time that feat has been achieved since 1994.

Openers Paul Horton and Moore both notched 1,000 runs, the first time two men have done that in four seasons.

Horton was the division's third most prolific out-fielder catcher with 32, the majority at first slip, while wicketkeeper Gareth Cross was rated as the country's best by the Professional Cricketer’s Association.

There were also notable returns from Karl Brown (888 Championship runs in his breakthrough season), Steven Croft (back-to-back Championship centuries and a maiden one-day ton) and Simon Kerrigan (9-51 against Hampshire, Lancashire's best figures since 1953).

Lancashire also made strides in one-day cricket as well.

Disappointment came as a result of that Super Over Eliminator at Twenty20 Finals Day. But, including 40-over cricket, they went eleven matches unbeaten under the excellent leadership of captain Croft.

The future's bright, and it's certainly Red Rose tinted!

Graham Hadcastle
Photo (c) Simon Pendrigh
Article (c) Lancashire County Cricket Club


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