Admitting that they’re doing things better across the Pennines doesn’t sit easily with a Lancastrian. But when it comes to Championship cricket, that’s exactly what the Red Rose are having to do.
Yorkshire have stormed to back-to-back Division One titles at a time when Lancashire have yo-yoed between the two tiers of the County Championship, and have proven to be consistently inconsistent when it comes to red ball cricket. Since stunning everyone to clinch the County Championship title in 2011, Lancashire have suffered two relegations from the top tier while their old rivals have flourished.
The Roses clash will return to Division One this season and Lancashire are looking towards their fierce rivals for inspiration. Under the stewardship of Ashley Giles and new club captain Steven Croft, the Old Trafford side is placing faith in youth to try and replicate the success enjoyed at Headingley.
Croft admitted that it was hard watching Yorkshire do so well, but believes they can tread a similar path to success.
“They’ve done really well at Yorkshire and as a Lancastrian it’s difficult to say,” Croft said during the club’s media day.
“They have had plenty of youth players who have come through and not only played for Yorkshire but gone on to England as well.
“It’s giving those youngsters a chance really, which we’ve done last year, mainly in the T20 but it might come through in the four-dayers this year as well.
“Most of our squad is youngsters but there’s a few wise heads and some experience as well around to hopefully bring them through.”
Alan Hansen famously derided Manchester United’s youthful approach back in 1995 when Sir Alex Ferguson fielded the crop of youngsters that would go on to win the title that season, and become the most famous group of talent in the club’s history. He never lived it down and now Lancashire is looking to replicate that success and prove that they can ‘win things with kids’.
Head Coach Ashley Giles believes the youngsters in their squad have enormous potential and has urged the more experienced members of his side to step up and help them out.
“We have got a lot of young lads but we’re prepared to play them and give them opportunities,” Giles said.
“A lot of them lack first division experience but you only get that by having a crack at it. At the same time we want to do well and we want to stay up so it’s a real balancing act.
“If we can juggle both things this year then we will have done well. Staying up and giving these guys and some exposure will be a really good thing for us down the line.
“We will need our big players when they are around to put in some big performances. We have senior guys in the team who need to perform.”
Giles confirmed that 19-year-old Haseeb Hameed will open the batting alongside Karl Brown at the start of the season, while the likes of 19-year-old Saqib Mahmood, 22-year-old Gavin Griffiths and 23-year-old Toby Lester will be among those competing for bowling spots as the season progresses.
James Anderson will occupy one of those spots for the first three Championship matches. England’s leading Test Match wicket-taker sees the potential in the young seamers at Old Trafford.
“There’s a lot of talent in the squad; some good quality,” Anderson said.
“Saqib is probably the standout solely on talent. He’s going to have a huge future. He’s quick, he moves the ball about and if he doesn’t break through in some form of the game this year it will be in the very near future.
“If our senior players are playing well that takes pressure off the younger lads that are coming in to the side. They have a key role and have to stand up and make sure they have a good season to make sure they blend in more easily.”