Head coach Peter Moores is sure Lancashire's future is bright despite the club's relegation from the top tier of the LV= County Championship
Just 12 months on from claiming the title with 10 wins from 16 matches, the Red Rose lost their Division One status on the back of only one win. Players and coaches alike have been wary of blaming the weather for their predicament, although the elements definitely played a part. Only three Championship matches were not affected, while 1,800 overs plus were lost.
Moores has highlighted defeats in three of their first four matches as key to relegation, although there were positive performances in limited overs cricket, especially a run to the semi-finals of the Clydesdale Bank 40 competition.
The aim is now to repeat the endeavours of 2005 when Lancashire bounced back from relegation immediately by winning the Division Two title under the leadership of captain Mark Chilton and cricket manager Mike Watkinson.
Should the right player(s) come along from outside, Moores and cricket director Watkinson will look to add to the squad.
But the debuts of wicketkeeper Alex Davies and fast bowler Tom Bailey against Surrey last week, coupled with awards for homegrown players in Steven Croft, Tom Smith and Simon Kerrigan at Monday’s awards dinner at Old Trafford, highlight that there is still plenty talent in and around the first-team squad.
Moores said: “I love coaching and working with players, and we're developing players. Of that I'm confident. We're still playing a lot of emerging Lancastrian players, who have enjoyed success last year and endured some tough times this year. They're getting better.
“Hopefully if we get that right, we're going to end up with a group at a good age for cricket. Twenty five to 30-odd is a good age to be successful because they've been through a bit. We've got people coming into that phase of their careers.
“Our job is to keep pushing them hard and working them hard to try and develop a team so that it's consistent in all forms. The lessons learnt this year, we should take on board and get better from them.”
In terms of adding to the squad, Moores said: “When the right person comes along, you're always going to be interested. As a club we're getting into a healthier situation with the finances because we've got a Test match coming up. That might make things a little bit easier. But we haven't changed tact from trying to develop our own players who can push on and play international cricket.”
Reflecting on the season, the former England and Sussex coach, who won the Division Two title in 2001 whilst as Sussex, said: “It's been disappointing, there's no doubt about that.
“We've never got momentum in any way or shape. Losing three out of the first four put us behind the eight ball. From then on in, you just felt like we didn't get going. Two of the nicest weeks seemed to be when we didn't play. We don't want to make excuses because we should have played better.
“The goal for us has always to be competitive in every game you play and in every competition. We were competitive in Twenty20 and CB40.
“Our chance to win (Championship) matches was in the first three weeks of the season when there was three results out of our first four. We were on the wrong end of all three. After that, the next chance with enough cricket played was the Worcester game, which we lost. Then we drew a load more. Suddenly you're playing three-day cricket instead of four. We still didn't play well enough when we got the chance.
“We had two or three opportunities in the first few games, and didn't take them. That put us under pressure. Warwickshire at Liverpool, 90-6. Notts at Old Trafford, we bowled them out for 160-odd and were 100-2, which was a great opportunity and we didn't take that either. They were the opportunities we didn't take. We've got to take responsibility for those.
“Then perhaps we were a bit impatient at times with ball and bat, trying to force the pace rather than our strength being to be patient and a bit attritional.
“Games like Somerset when there could have been a result either way, Guildford was another one that could have panned out to be a decent game of cricket but it rained. There were a lot of matches like that.
“There is disappointment that we got relegated, but frustration as much as anything. We'll go away, and that will hit the lads properly. We know we've got to come back and play some good cricket next year.”
A number of Lancashire’s players will be going away this winter to play cricket, whether it be at international, domestic or at club level.
The likes of Kerrigan will again be part of the England Performance Programme squad, Smith will be part of England’s Hong Kong Sixes squad next month, Croft will play domestic cricket in New Zealand with the Northern Districts and Luke Procter will go to Perth to play grade cricket. There will be others travelling too.
Moores added: “For some lads to go away is good. We've got some going away to play more structured winters in academies abroad, places like Perth. There are some going to play club cricket, which is good for them to take responsibility. There are other opportunities in the Twenty20 in places like Zimbabwe. We'll have players in various parts of the world.
“We'll also run a pretty full on winter programme here, which will be physical and skill based to address the areas we know we need to get better in.”
Article (c) Lancashire CCC Ltd
Photo (c) Simon Pendrigh