Since last winning the County Championship title in 2011, Lancashire had become an unreliable collective of players yo-yoing between divisions. However, after coming so close in 2021, the Red Rose will be hoping they can go one better come 2022.
With Warwickshire pipping them to the County Championship by just 3.5 points last year, before being roundly beaten by the same side in the Bob Willis trophy, the Red Rose were the nearly team of last season. Now, after more than a decade since their last red ball triumph, Lancashire will hope their invigorated red-ball progress can continue into 2022.
Their focus on playing hard, dynamic cricket, helped by the underrated signing of Luke Wood; who’s left arm pace provided a point of difference in an already varied attack, saw Lancashire become a real force in the longest format. A settled group of backroom staff, headed by the unflappable Glenn Chapple, and a batch of young, homegrown players in Saqib Mahmood, Matt Parkinson and Josh Bohannon means that Lancashire should be hoping to stay near the top of the table again this season.
The T20 Vitality Blast would have been equally as frustrating for Lancashire, where the team was hampered by injuries and England call ups. Despite their difficulties the team managed to make it to the knockout stages, before being comfortably beaten by eventual runner-up Somerset. Yet, with big stars such as Liam Livingstone and overseas pro Tim David being joined by the newly acquired Phil Salt, they have a high chance of being in contention again come finals day.
It may, however, be another struggle for Lancashire in the Royal London One Day Cup, with many of their regular star players being drafted into The Hundred for the duration of the tournament. It was this exact issue that saw the side fail to qualify from the group stages in 2021, despite three wins from their first four fixtures.
The pitches at Old Trafford in recent years have been a breath of fresh air, producing swing and seam early before flattening out, whilst reverse and spin come into the mix later on. Despite not finishing last year with a trophy, the manner in which Lancashire played was a real positive, where points of difference had to be found on what is surely the circuits most Test match-like wicket. It’s no coincidence that many of their young talent have either already played international cricket or are heavily tipped for future England honours.
Ins: George Bell (Academy), Phil Salt (Sussex)
Outs: Taylor Cornall (Worcestershire), Alex Davies (Warwickshire)
After signing a long-term contract extension halfway through the 2021 season, Keaton Jennings has become an extremely valued and experienced member of Lancashire’s often young batting line-up. It may not quite have worked out for the South African native in his brief England career, but that’s more good news for Lancashire, as they will almost certainly have him available throughout the summer. Despite an injury hampered season last year, Jennings managed to score 577 County Championship runs at 48, including 2 match defining hundreds. Red Rose fans will be hoping he can keep up that form in 2022 and help the young batsmen swelling Lancashire’s ranks whilst he’s at it.
Player to Watch
There’s plenty of players coming out of Old Trafford that have their names regularly thrown into the England hat. Parkinson and Mahmood have been in numerous Test squads to sit alongside their white ball caps, whilst Bohannon is being whispered about amongst cricket purists as a potential successor to Jonathan Trott at number 3. However, the young spinner Tom Hartley is the one to watch, especially if Parkinson continues to gain England honours.
He’s already been a success in the shortest format, where the tall left-armer is known for his superb economy rate. This year it will be hoped he can kick on in the red-ball arena, especially on one of the countries more spin friendly wickets.
Dane Vilas (Cpt – All formats) Hasan Ali (County Championship) Tim David (T20 Blast)
Dane Vilas found a home in Lancashire through his Kolpak status before Brexit finally took hold. However, after making himself a valued middle-order batsmen and club captain, he’s maintained his presence as an official overseas signing. The captain will no doubt be happy to have Hasan Ali joining his bowling ranks for six Championship games. The Pakistan quick was the third highest Test wicket taker in 2021, taking 41 poles at 16, form which I’m sure Vilas and the Lancashire fans will hope he can continue.
Tim David is one of the most exciting batsmen on the T20 circuit currently, where he is gaining a reputation as an immense finisher. Striking at almost 160 throughout his career, cricket fans of all colours should be excited to see him bat alongside Phil Salt and Liam Livingstone at Old Trafford.
How They’ll Fare
Lancashire seem to have all bases covered throughout their squad, especially in red-ball cricket, where with their spin, pace and top-order runs they can be a real force. It’s of vital importance, however, that this relatively young group of players don’t let the disappointment of last year have a knock-on effect through to 2022. If they are able to move on, then there’s no reason for them to not be right up the top of the County Championship again.
In the white ball arena, Lancashire’s squad depth may turn into an issue as their star players could find themselves called up to England duty or The Hundred throughout the campaign. If they are able to keep hold of their key contributors, then they could be tipped to go far. On the other hand, it could turn into a slog for them on these fronts if they are hampered by the absences that had a profound effect on their 2021 campaign.
Opening Fixture – 14-17 April 2022 vs Kent at The Spitfire Ground, County Championship
Season Odds (Sky Bet)
County Championship – 11/2
RLODC – 8/1
T20 Blast – 8/1