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Exciting and encouraging

Exciting and encouraging

Graham Hardcastle, who followed Lancashire's fortunes in 2010 for lccc.co.uk, gives his assessment of the season

2010 ended without silverware for Lancashire, but there were still plenty of encouraging signs, with significant strides forward in the LV= County Championship and the continued development of some of the club’s younger and less experienced players.

Despite being only two years into his role, coach Peter Moores, who has a three-year plan to achieve success, knows the Old Trafford faithful demand trophies.

Though Moores and his players do not “have the luxury of saying we’re in a transitional period because we’re Lancashire CCC” according to batsman Paul Horton.

There were definite improvements from the Red Rose in the LV= County Championship, winning more matches and accruing more points than they did in 2009 as they again finished fourth.

But perhaps that was offset by some inconsistent displays in one day cricket, especially in the Friends Provident Twenty20.

They never challenged in the Clydesdale Bank 40 competition, but that was always likely after a conscientious decision to rest senior players for bigger challenges ahead.

There were flashes of a winning team in Twenty20 - but the consistency shown in 2009 was lacking, and a quarter final defeat against Essex at Chelmsford was a bitter pill to swallow. But Moores and his team should not be criticised for their failure to win such a competition because anything can happen on any given day.

As far as the Championship goes, Lancashire are a tough nut to crack.

A run of 19 matches without defeat dating back to last June was broken in a thrilling encounter against Durham at Old Trafford.

Glen Chapple described that defeat as “the turning point in our season”.

Chapple was brilliant again with the ball, picking up 52 wickets at 19.75 apiece, as was left arm spinner Gary Keedy when he came back from a broken collarbone to take 31 scalps in seven four-day matches.

Major injuries to Keedy and new signing Stephen Moore, who dislocated his shoulder, did not help.

But the early season form of rookie left armer Simon Kerrigan provided a boost, and his 30 wickets ensured he was the biggest mover from the club’s crop of youngsters.

Looking at the batting in Championship cricket, it is widely accepted that it is something that needs improving.

Moore, who played some stellar knocks against the white ball, struggled at the top of the order, as did Horton, and nobody has scored 1,000 runs in a season for the county since 2007.

They were often bailed out by useful runs down the order from Sajid Mahmood, who scored 564 as his potential with the bat finally shone through regularly.

Tom Smith, despite struggling at the top of the order when given the chance, was otherwise exceptional in all forms of cricket. The all-rounder bowled better in the last six weeks of the campaign than he has ever done before.

His batting steadily improved after a shaky start, and he scored two hundreds in Championship cricket against Yorkshire at Headingley and Hampshire at the Rose Bowl.

The likes of Steven Croft, who top scored with 883 runs, and Mark Chilton were dependable performers with the bat, while left arm spinner Stephen Parry earned an England Lions call up on the back of his 20-over displays.

Ashwell Prince and Shivnarine Chanderpaul, the club’s two main overseas signings, proved successful.

And New Zealander Nathan McCullum was a useful acquisition as the Twenty20 specialist overseas, McCullum’s bowling and fielding proving to be his best attributes.

Gareth Cross also showed that he can be the club’s new No.1 wicketkeeper after the departure of Luke Sutton back to former county Derbyshire.

As far as the 40-over campaign goes, Moore showed his class with two tons against Surrey at Whitgift School and Worcestershire at New Road.

But a series of defeats ended their chances of progression in the six-team group, and left the latter half of the campaign open to blood players such as Karl Brown, Luke Procter and Jordan Clark.

Thrilling wins for an inexperienced side in the final two matches against the Unicorns and Worcestershire provided encouragement with the future in mind.

Whatever Lancashire did or did not do, it is fair to say that this the most exciting county cricket season for some time.

The non use of the heavy roller provided for some exciting Championship cricket, and the win over Hampshire at Liverpool in September was an example of that.

It bodes well for 2011, with all eight home Championship fixtures being played away from Old Trafford due to the ground’s continued redevelopment.

Hampshire’s Jimmy Adams played the best innings in a match involving Lancashire this campaign, his 508-ball 194 in the second innings proving that grit and determination can prosper.

While, at the other end of the scale, Lancashire’s Twenty20 win over Roses rivals Yorkshire at Old Trafford was also a match to provide us with fond memories.

The last word, however, should be left to captain Chapple.

He assessed: “We can see where we could have won the league (Championship),” he said. “There have been opportunities. “But the way the season’s panned out, we were the fourth best side.

“We don’t think we’re a better team on paper because there are some serious teams out there. But, with a good preparation, we aim to be up there with them next year.

“We’ve got young players who’ve come on leaps and bounds this year, and we’d look for them to do that again next year.

“Every member of the staff bar one has played first team cricket this year, and we’ve got a young side of predominantly Lancastrians.”

Squad changes for 2011 - Departures: Luke Sutton (to Derbyshire), Daren Powell, Gary Montgomery, Adrian Shankar (all released).


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