Surrey v Lancashire, Guildford, 2nd day July 12, 2012

Moores praises quality of county game

Lancashire 425 (Horton 110, Croft 104*) for 7 v Surrey

You could, were you so inclined, use Steven Croft as an example of many of the things that are wrong with English cricket. He is unlikely to represent England, he is not, at the age of 27, particularly young, and he is not particularly likely to bring crowds flocking to see him in action.

But Croft is a valuable player. A valuable county player. And it is such players who, by keeping the standard of county cricket high, ensure that future England players develop in a tough, intense environment that allows them to quickly adapt to the international game. Croft actually represents much that is right with county cricket.

Here, with his side in danger of squandering their strong start, Croft produced a characteristically pugnacious innings. Particularly strong on the pull, he also clips off his legs neatly, produced a few nice drives - including the one that took him to the fifth first-class century of his career and the second of this campaign - and one delightful late cut. And he did it against an attack containing five international bowlers.

It was a point made by Lancashire's head coach. Peter Moores, the former England coach and the only man to have led two clubs to the County Championship title, who believes the standard of county cricket remains high and sees great significance in that fact that four of England's current top seven scored centuries on Test debut.

"County cricket undoubtedly plays a significant role in the development of the England team," Moores told ESPNcricinfo. "You just have to look at the success of players coming into the team to see that.

"The standard is good and there are really good cricketers coming through. I don't see that the quality has been lowered at all. And, just as importantly, we have very few dead games or manufactured results these days. County cricket provides good entertainment. Perhaps we should push it more, just as we did when T20 was first introduced?

"When I played, from 1983 to 1998, there were some great players. But you could effectively have matches off as there was only one division. Now just about every game in the top division of the championship means something so the cricket is more intense and competitive than it used to be."

Moores refutes the suggestion that the increased difficulty in singing overseas players and Kolpak registrations and the incentive to field young players had resulted in any dilution in quality. "The reason the ECB made those changes was to encourage young, England-qualified cricketers the opportunity to develop," he said. "And it has. Fewer Kolpak players is no great loss, though I do think the rules over signing overseas players could be looked at. It would be nice if we could sign an outstanding young overseas player, but sometimes we are blocked because they haven't played sufficient international cricket to gain a work permit."

Moores is also coming round to the idea of domestic T20 being played on a Friday night through much of the season, but fears that producing a predictable schedule is difficult bearing in mind the introduction of the Champions League, which is usually played from mid-September, and the volume of domestic cricket played.

"The introduction of the Champions League has shortened the season," Moores said. "There are several carrots for participating in it, but the fact is that it is very difficult to find an acceptable schedule if you play the same amount of cricket within the same time frame. Playing T20 in a block may be best for cricketing reasons, but we are in the entertainment business and, if we want people to come and watch us, we need them to know when we're playing. People come on Friday nights and we need to have a season with rhythms that people understand."

Moores accepted that Lancashire, the defending champions, had not enjoyed the best start to the season, but felt the squad were developing nicely. "I think we have to accept that we haven't played quite as well as last year," Moores said. "We dominated 11 or 12 of the 16 games we played last year and that hasn't been the case this time around. But we have quite a lot of young guys in this team and, when that is the case, you are bound to have some inconsistency."

Certainly Lancashire were grateful for Croft's intervention on the second day of this game. Having slipped from 233 for 2 to 298 for 6, it appeared they were allowing Surrey back into the game. Ashwell Prince, vindicating Surrey's decision to delay taking the second new ball, was beaten by some turn and hooked his attempted drive to be caught at deep midwicket, before Tom Smith's optimistic attempt at a single was beaten by Zander de Bruyn's direct hit from mid off. Gareth Cross then attempted to pull but hit the ball straight to midwicket.

Glenn Chapple helped Croft add 121 for the seventh wicket in 29 overs. Chapple, who pulled Meaker for six and lofted Murali Kartik for four, was the aggressor at the start, but Croft was increasingly positive and at one stage took 15 off an over from de Bruyn. While he had enjoyed reprieves on 0 and 3 the previous day, he gave no further chances on day two and took advantage of a pitch that has become even slower and easier to bat upon to steer his side away from trouble.

Not that it will probably make much difference. Heavy rain curtailed the day by 49 overs, which means Lancashire have now lost 1,030 overs to bad weather so far this season. By comparison, they lost only 234 in the whole of 2011, though that was an unusually good year. The forecast for the next couple of days is not wildly encouraging either.

That will not help Kevin Pietersen. While, on the bright side, Pietersen has enjoyed five sessions of fielding practise, there is a real prospect of him going into the Test series against South Africa having had just one first-class innings since the last week of May.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • AdrianVanDenStael on July 13, 2012, 19:32 GMT

    It is ironic in the light of this article and particularly the last couple of paragraphs that Pietersen has just thrashed the Lancashire attack for exactly the same number of runs as Dobell suggests Lancashire lost overs in the whole of last season. Does this suggest the quality of the county game as represented by Lancashire's bowling is not as great as Moores suggests? I'm sure Pietersen would've enjoyed getting one over on Moores after their falling out when they were England skipper and coach, but I'm not convinced by Moores' arguments. He suggests the 2-division system has improved the quality of county cricket, instancing that debutant batsmen have done well for England in recent times; yet at least 1 of the debutant ceturions he mentions (A. Cook) was plucked from a div 2 side. In fairness Moores might also mention that 2 of the others in the England top 7 made good 50s on debut; but I think the Kolpaks, and overseas players, have helped make county cricket much more competitive

  • zenboomerang on July 13, 2012, 14:33 GMT

    @LancsTwins... Maybe a bit harsh but I did say "not sure"... Not throwing stones, just felt that parts of the article were askew & the premise of the article wasn't balanced.... Not bagging any County team :) ...

  • jpeacock158 on July 13, 2012, 13:29 GMT

    Youth at Surrey? Rory Hamilton-Brown is on compassionate leave and we've lost Tom Maynard, which is why we currently have bowling all-rounders starting from number 6 and down in most games at the moment! We also have two of the most promising fast bowlers in the country in Matthew Dunn and George Edwards!!

  • LancsTwins on July 13, 2012, 12:00 GMT

    Zenboomerang_ I think you are being a bit harsh; no-one was saying that Surrey had an international class attack, but they do have a strong one - as Moores indicated, far stronger than sides used to field in the '70s/'80s when a lot of sides had trundlers and not much else. I think the point is that the standard of county cricket, whilst not of course as strong as international cricket, is of a good enough (and crucially a competive enough) standard to serve as a appropriate apprenticeship for the international game. That seems fair comment to me from both Moores and Dobell. And worth pointing out that Simon Kerrigan has only just turned 23 and can have every expectation of representing his country.

  • zenboomerang on July 13, 2012, 6:24 GMT

    @George Dobell... Not sure about your comment on 5 international bowlers means much & Moores comment about the incentive for young players to come into the game... The int. bowlers - Lewis played 1 Test (2006) & is nearly 37y.o... Kartik 8 Tests (2004) & nearly 36y.o... de Bruyn 3 Tests (2004) & 37y.o... Batty 7 Tests (2005) & 34y.o... Sure they played but their records aren't good... Besides Meaker 23y.o. all the bowlers are over 30y.o. - so where is all the youth at Surrey?... Lancashire's have a younger bowling squad but the youngest bowler is 26y.o. while Chapple is 38y.o... I do realise that the batters are generally younger :)...

  • No featured comments at the moment.