When Lancashire skipper Steven Croft dared to mention the prospect of a title tilt at the club’s pre-season media day, there were a few raised eyebrows and knowing looks among the assorted press.
But anyone who witnessed Lancashire’s first day performance against Hampshire at Old Trafford will be thinking there is no reason at all why they shouldn’t have such lofty aspirations.
Skittling Hampshire for 109 and then batting superbly to finish on 157-1 tells a mighty impressive story in of itself. But it doesn’t do justice to the standard of performance.
Having lost the toss under sunny skies on a pitch that looked perfect for batting, the attack, spearheaded by James Anderson, had the visitors under the pump from the word go.
Anderson and Kyle Jarvis were unerringly accurate in their opening burst and it wasn’t long before the wickets began to tumble as a result. Anderson finished with three but could have had a hatful all on his own. He is the undoubted leader of the attack and Lancashire will miss him when he returns to England after this match.
But there was proof they could cope with his absence. New Zealander Neil Wagner bowled with pace and aggression, moving the ball around and producing an absolute snorter of a yorker to trap Liam Dawson lbw.
Even fourth seamer Luke Procter joined in, taking his first wicket of the season and finishing with 3-14. It was a collective effort from the quicks, and in-form spinner Simon Kerrigan wasn’t even required to bowl.
Every successful side needs to be able to support their bowlers in the field and skipper Croft led from the front. A sensational run out of James Vince for a duck was impressive enough, but his full-length dive to catch Ryan McLaren at mid off was simply superb and was the kind of thing that will inspire his entire team.
It all comes off the back of a mighty impressive start to the season on their return to Division One. A comprehensive victory against Nottinghamshire at Old Trafford, thanks largely to 11/111 from Wagner, was backed up by a draw at Taunton in which the Red Rose dominated.
That game proved Lancashire aren’t all about the bowling. They racked up 493-9dec, with Alviro Petersen’s 83, Steven Croft’s 94 and Liam Livingstone’s unbeaten 108 demonstrating that the bowling is backed up by some strength with the bat.
And that was a point that was proved again during the afternoon session here against Hampshire. Karl Brown got them off to a flyer but when he departed, there was no panic.
Not a hint of a wobble came from the Lancs batsmen as 19-year-old Haseeb Hameed put on an unbroken stand of 104 with Procter to ensure the day belonged entirely to the hosts.
Lancashire batsman Karl Brown lauded the performance of the side.
“I think it could only have been more perfect if we’d been none down,” Brown said.
“We couldn’t ask for a better day than that. We bowled as a unit really well, everyone played their part and we backed it up as a batting unit at the end of the day.
“Everybody has bowled as well as they could have this season and you can’t put it down to one person because they’ve all bowled together, keeping pressure on to take wickets.
“The squad has a lot of confidence. We’ve had a good start and we’re looking to push on to a big total tomorrow.”