CHANGE CAN BE scary – it can also be exciting – and the wholesale changes that have been made over the winter signal a new era at Emirates Old Trafford.
That being said, Lancashire find themselves in an all-too familiar position, relegated to Division Two and odds-on favourites to make an immediate return, hoping to sustain a longevity if they are able to complete this task.
Ashley Giles has been appointed as the new Director of Cricket and Head Coach and since the inception of his tenure there have been a number of alterations to personnel in both a playing and general capacity. Lancashire also have a new club captain in Tom Smith, who was their Player of the Season for 2014 after claiming 54 Championship wickets.
The two key signings thus far have been Alviro Petersen and Peter Siddle, who should both be capable of achieving high standards in Division Two, but the alarming concern is the departure of several bowlers including Kyle Hogg and Kabir Ali. Lancashire must not succumb to complacency and assume that another season in Division One beckons for them.
Lancashire can consider themselves as the unluckiest of teams in English t20 history. The team with the most victories is yet to win the title and last year was as close as they have come to a maiden t20 trophy. If disappointment was the best way to describe their t20 endeavours then their 50-over campaign would be best described as woeful.
Not necessarily because Lancashire finished second-bottom of their group with only two victories in eight matches, but because they suffered monumental defeats to Yorkshire and Hampshire in their first two games, which affectively ended the Lightning’s interests in the campaign. The 50-over contest is being used as a vehicle for introducing youth players to the first team, although Lancashire may be more desperate for a one-day title after a long absence of limited-overs silverware.
Ins: Nathan Buck (Leicestershire), Haseeb Hameed (YTH), Matthew Parkinson (YTH), Saqib Mahmood (YTH), George Edwards (Surrey), Alviro Petersen (KPK)
Outs: Andrea Agathangelou (REL), Oliver Newby (REL), Kabir Ali (REL), Wayne White (Derbyshire)
In a new era for Lancashire their newly appointed club captain Tom Smith has a lot of expectation to fulfil, but his all-round capabilities make him the one-to-watch in 2015. Smith was the undisputed Player of the Season last year, not just because of how well he performed, but due to the lack of consistency shown by others, as Lancashire were relegated for the second time in three seasons. Not only was Smith Lancashire’s leading wicket-taker in Championship cricket, he also played a prolific role in the group stages of the Natwest t20 blast at the top of the order and his ability to contribute with bat and ball will be invaluable if Lancashire become involved in a race for promotion. A tip of the cap must also be given to his second in command, Steven Croft, who also had a promising season despite the disappointment of relegation. The way in which these two lead will be crucial and with a number of young players coming through the ranks, Smith and Croft have an unenviable task ahead of them.
Player to Watch
Tom Bailey enjoyed a brief spell of success towards the end of 2014 and after the departure of several club mainstays he is likely to be the future of Lancashire’s bowling attack. Injuries to the likes of Hogg and Ali provided Bailey with a chance in the first team and being thrown in at the deep end proved to be worthwhile to his development. The 23-year-old featured in three County Championship matches and four 50-over games claiming 13 wickets, but his best is yet to come and the experience of Siddle will be enlightening for not just Bailey but the likes of Buck and also Edwards. Bailey made his debut in 2012 and his inclusion in Lancashire’s pre-season matches have been encouraging to say the least, but whether or not he has the potential to fill the enormous shoes of Glen Chapple remains to be seen.
The signing of Peter Siddle came as welcome news to the Old Trafford faithful, who were starting to worry how they were going to replace the likes of Hogg and Ali, not to mention the possibility that former captain Chapple could be playing a very shrouded role at the club in a coaching position. Siddle is set to be available for the first half of the season and will finish his time at the club at the end of July, playing predominantly in four-day cricket.
His previous experience at Nottinghamshire and Ashes-winning pedigree should provide the Red Rose with a destructive talent and in the second division Siddle could be a formidable presence. A one-year spell at Trent Bridge proffered 37 wickets in just 11 County Championship matches and Siddle’s time with the Australian side has seen a return of 192 wickets in 56 Tests at an average of 30.45. Who will replace Siddle remains a mystery, but there have been suggestions that Junaid Khan could return in a t20 capacity.
How they’ll fare
After being relegated in 2012, Lancashire were expected to make an immediate return to Division One and the weight of expectation will be no lighter this time around. Anything other than promotion would be seen as failure in the County Championship and with a number of quality players in their ranks, Lancashire can and should be contending for the Division Two title. A top order consisting of Horton, Prince and Petersen ought to be capable of posting scores which eluded Lancashire for most of last season and, despite wholesale changes to the bowling attack, the Red Rose have a superb spinner in Simon Kerrigan and should be able to take 20 wickets on a regular basis. Limited overs success has eluded Lancashire for too long now, but the frustration of falling at the final hurdle in last year’s t20 competition may be a sign that the Lightning are close to silverware in white-ball cricket and as one of the most consistent teams in t20 history they regularly find themselves in contention for Finals Day.
v Derbyshire, Sunday 19th April 2015, 3aaa County Ground, Derby.
Season Odds (via SkyBet)
LV County Championship Division Two: 3/1
Royal London One-Day Cup: 16/1
Natwest Twenty20 Blast: 12/1