If 2018 was a bitter disappointment, then 2019 was a roaring success for Lancashire. Promotion straight back to Division One was the minimum requirement and it was achieved with a minimum of fuss.
Their celebration of the second tier title will have been tempered by the fact that they ought not to have been relegated last season, given the quality of the squad, but Lancashire proved themselves a class above the rest in storming to the title.
Promotion was coupled with impressive performances in both white-ball competitions – reaching the semi-finals of the Royal London One-Day Cup and the quarter-finals of the Vitality Blast.
They fell agonisingly short in both matches and will look back with a hint of regret on missed opportunities.
In the Blast they were the standout performers during the group stage with an incredibly strong squad. Australia’s Glenn Maxwell and James Faulkner bolstered the side to make up the most complete team in the competition and one which will feel it ought to have gone all the way.
Maxwell’s contribution to the season was magnificent. He was the main overseas for the club after compatriot Joe Burns returned home after just one match and his commitment and enthusiasm was evident – either side of a poor World Cup campaign – across all three formats.
Head coach Glenn Chapple will also have been delighted to get a full season out of Saqib Mahmood, whose displays have earned him England recognition, as has Matt Parkinson – the young leg-spinner who continues to go from strength to strength.
That duo have also earned ‘icon’ picks for Manchester Originals in The Hundred next season.
Where their development continues at pace, Haseeb Hameed’s slide in form over the last three seasons – since his England debut – has been a down side of things at Old Trafford.
The announcement that his contract would not be renewed came as no surprise, but it was news that was greeted with enormous sadness.
To end on a brighter note, Lancashire’s controversial choice to play a match at Sedbergh School in Cumbria, was a roaring success and it is hoped they will return in 2020.
SSCC: Champions, Division Two
Vitality Blast: Quarter-finals – top of North Group
SCCC: Dane Vilas, 1036 runs @ 79.39
Vitality Blast: Alex Davies, 307 runs – SR 127.91
RLODC: Steven Croft, 516 runs @ 73.71
SSCC: Richard Gleeson, 47 wickets @ 20.17
Vitality Blast: Matt Parkinson, 21 wickets – Econ 7.48
RLODC: Saqib Mahmood, 28 wickets @ 18.50
Player of the Season
In his first season as captain – having replaced Liam Livingstone – Dane Vilas was simply exceptional for the Red Rose. The South African is a perfect fit as skipper, offering the right blend of positivity and calmness in his demeanour as well as being a fantastic batsmen. His form in the second division was superb, racking up over 1000 runs and leading the side to an immediate return to Division One.
He is also an integral part of Lancashire’s white-ball season in the middle order, capable of marshalling innings as well as providing acceleration. He will reflect with huge frustration over his decision to hand the penultimate over to Livingstone in their quarter-final Vitality Blast loss to Essex – a call which cost the Lightning a spot at Edgbaston having blown everyone else away in the group stage.
Josh Bohannon hinted at his potential towards the back end of the 2018 season and he really built on it this season. He appeared in all three formats but enjoyed most success in the Championship, despite being moved up and down the order. His maiden first-class century – 174 batting at three against Derbyshire – was notable as much for the huge celebrations it sparked from his team-mates as much as for its quality. It is clear the 21-year-old is a very popular member of the dressing room and also that he is highly rated by the coaching staff. Bohannon will want to kick on again in 2020.
Could have done better
Keaton Jennings was always going to be facing an uphill battle to hold on to his England place having had such a disappointing winter, but his form for Lancashire came nowhere near causing a change of mind for the selectors. It wasn’t terrible, but the left-hander will be disappointed by a red-ball season that consisted of 588 runs and not a single century. His form in the One-Day Cup was solid, helping Lancashire to the semi-finals with 416 runs, and he is a fantastic character and team-mate to have in the dressing room. Jennings will hope to recapture his best Championship form next season.
Need to work on
Getting over the line. Lancashire enjoyed strong campaigns in both white-ball competitions and will be immensely frustrated to fall short of both finals. Their One-Day Cup campaign was their best in years and they came so close to a first Lord’s final since 2006. A narrow semi-final defeat to Hampshire at the Ageas Bowl was agonising.
But perhaps greater frustration came in the Blast. Lancashire are always good in the competition – but this year they were so, so good in the North Group. It appeared a side with no weaknesses. Events conspired against them in the semi against Essex – having to play their ‘home’ match at Durham and the rain coming at the wrong time – but to lose that match in the manner they did was ever so disappointing for the side.
Another opportunity to properly establish themselves in the top flight. Lancashire have yo-yoed too often since winning the title in 2011, despite coming second in 2017. This squad has to build on its potential and challenge at the top end of Division One. The return of the Roses clashes in the Championship will also whet the appetite.
Season Rating 8/10