Lancashire Season Preview 2016

Promotion to the first division and a first piece of one-day silverware since 1999 marked a triumphant first full season in charge for Ashley Giles, although he has made it very clear that there is more work to be done to make Lancashire a county capable of sustaining the challenge of first-division cricket.

Insisting on a home-grown modus operandi, Lancashire took Division Two by storm last season, as they and Surrey seized promotion, demonstrating that they were, once again, far too strong for the competition in the lower tier.

Steven Croft, who has taken over as captain on a full-time basis to allow Tom Smith to recover from a back injury, was a key part of Lancashire’s success in all formats last summer. Kiwi Neil Wagner joins the Red Rose this season as a four-day overseas signing and is likely to be a ferocious opponent in Division One of the County Championship.

Realistically, Lancashire will settle for survival in the four-day contest, with a number of young and local players leading the charge for them this season. Division One is a tough league and Lancashire will be hoping to shake their habit of being too strong for the lower tier and not strong enough for the first division.

Known as one of the strongest teams since the inception of Twenty20 cricket, Lancashire finally lifted the trophy at Edgbaston in August, beating Northamptonshire in the final after finishing as runners-up to Birmingham the previous summer.

Giles has suggested that Lancashire will not be pursuing an overseas singing for the shorter formats, a statement that has not been welcomed by the Old Trafford faithful, after James Faulkner took 26 wickets to help Lancashire lift the trophy last season.

The Lightning have finally secured a trophy to illustrate their pedigree in T20 cricket and in spite of their lack of urgency to recruit a Chris Gayle or Brendon McCullum, they will be among the tournament favourites again this summer due to their outstanding approach to this format of the game.

Along with a number of other counties, Lancashire have struggled to give heart and soul to the Royal London One-Day Cup, with last season proving to be another straight and narrow performance by the Lightning.

Unable to share the same enthusiasm for the 50-over tournament, a mid-table finish represented a sufficient finish, but certainly a better finish than the previous season, when they came second-bottom in their group.

With Lancashire looking to survive the drop in the four-day contest and defend their Natwest T20 Blast crown, it is likely that they will, once again, be unable to give the same dedication to the one-day cup, although it could be the sort of campaign to introduce the many talented youngsters vying for more first-team cricket.

Ins: Neil Wagner (Overseas), Danny Lamb (Youth)

Outs: Paul Horton (Leicestershire), Ashwell Prince (Retired)

Key Player 

With Ashwell Prince and Paul Horton both leaving Lancashire, Alviro Petersen will be expected to utilise his vast batting experience to assist a number of young cricketers at Old Trafford, or at least players who have not played a great deal of first division cricket before.

Petersen’s mammoth 286 at Colwyn Bay last summer marked the eighth highest score by a Lancashire player, with the South African batsman scoring three centuries on his way to 861 runs in the Championship last season. He has been in tremendous form over the winter playing in South Africa for the Highveld Lions and his experience will be necessary to help Lancashire survive the stern test of Division One.

Consistency with the bat was an issue for the Proteas veteran last summer, something that he will have to rectify if he hopes to spearhead the Red Rose batting card.

Player to Watch 

Vastly improving all-rounder Arron Lilley has developed the ability to contribute in all three formats of the game, having emerged as a Twenty20 specialist, with 2016 set to be his biggest season to date.

Lilley is developing his tidy off-spin from the shorter formats to make him a dangerous second spin option behind Simon Kerrigan in the Championship, but he can also be a destructive lower-order batsman, as well as, arguably, one of the best fielders in the team. He took 26 wickets in seven Championship appearances last season, including 5/23 against Derbyshire at Southport.

Anybody who saw his catches against Nottinghamshire and Kent in the Twenty20 campaign last season will know how athletic Lilley is in the field, a hunger that he transmits into everything that he does.

Overseas Signings

Aware of the importance of taking 20 wickets, New Zealand pace bowler Neil Wagner has been drafted in as a four-day signing to bolster the Lancashire bowling attack this summer. Wagner has enjoyed a superb winter with his national side, taking Test-best figures of 6/106 against Australia in Christchurch. Wagner has played 19 Tests for New Zealand, taking 74 wickets at an average of 32.43.

The ferocious left-arm seamer has a method for getting the ball to swing both ways that will be suited to English conditions and he should make an intimidating new-ball pairing with Zimbabwean Kyle Jarvis, who took 62 wickets in the Championship last season.

After the all-round importance of James Faulkner in Lancashire’s Twenty20 success last summer, there has been an uproar at the suggestion that Lancashire might not sign a T20 specialist again this summer, with a number of other counties securing blockbuster signings for the format already.

How they’ll fare

Sustainability and survival in red-ball cricket would be a huge step in the right direction for Lancashire this season. Having lost two key players, the local talent must now prove that it is up to the sizeable challenge of competing in the first division.

Teenage prodigy Haseeb Hameed has been signalled as a future talent, but to ask him to open the batting in early-season conditions could require a degree of patience to allow him to develop. Other, more knowledgeable campaigners need to put their experience to good use if the Red Rose are going to compete across the board this summer.

No team has ever defended the Twenty20 trophy in this country before and the unpredictable nature of T20 cricket means that Lancashire will have to reach unprecedented levels if they are to be successful once again this season, a struggle which could be aided be the addition of overseas talent.

They have a tried-and-tested formula in limited-overs cricket, using an array of spin to restrict the opposition and a plethora of aggressive hitters capable of chasing high targets, particularly at Old Trafford, making them serious candidates for the 50-over campaign.

Opening Fixture

v Nottinghamshire, Sunday 17 April at Emirates Old Trafford

Season Odds

Specsavers County Championship Division Two: 16/1

Royal London One-Day Cup: NA

Natwest Twenty20 Blast: NA


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