County previews 2014 March 27, 2014

Lancs best could be saved for one-dayers

ESPNcricinfo staff

Last year

1st, CC Div 2; QF, FLt20; 3rd, YB40 Group B.

2013 in a nutshell

Lancashire did what they had to in 2013. To follow a Championship win in 2011, however unexpected, by relegation the following year was quite a jolt. The only acceptable response was immediate promotion back to Division One and they achieved it emphatically, getting stronger as the season progressed and finishing 36 points ahead of their closest challenger, Northants. If Darren Stevens had not struck a sumptuous double hundred against them at Canterbury as the season drew to a close, they would have completed their Division Two campaign unbeaten.

The Championship dominated Lancashire's thoughts in 2013, how could it not, but they also performed ably in the limited-overs game. After a poor start in YB40, they won six on the trot and had visions of a place in the semifinals until Ravi Bopara's hundred for Essex in the final group game put paid to that. Yet another sluggish start in T20 almost cost them, but they finished second in North Division before going out in the quarter-finals, falling just one run short of Hampshire's imposing 202.

2014 prospects

Lancashire pulled off the most glamorous signing of the close season when Jos Buttler joined them from Somerset, in search of regular wicketkeeping opportunities. They will be desperate that England allow him to develop his batting and keeping talents in the Championship and do not turn to him prematurely as a Test wicketkeeper. They need Buttler's runs, especially as Simon Katich, the driving force behind their promotion, has retired.

Bowling wise, Lancashire also need to look beyond Glen Chapple. Kyle Hogg made his debut 13 years ago and, at 30, still carries promise of a big season. The left-arm spinner Simon Kerrigan needs to use his disturbing England debut as a catalyst for improvement. But most hopes surround the burly pace bowler Kyle Jarvis, who walked out on Zimbabwe in his mid-20s last summer and who aims to make his home in Manchester as a non-overseas player. Old Trafford's renaissance has roused expectations again in the north-west, although a big signing to help fill the stadium for NatWest Blast is still awaited.

Key player

Paul Horton's elevation to the vice captaincy has positioned him as a potential successor when Chapple finally retires. He is highly respected at Lancashire, but while his leadership qualities will come in handy, his top-order runs will be more in demand this summer, in the Championship especially.

Bright young thing

Luis Reece was an immediate success at the top of the order on his debut season in 2013. He made 722 runs at an average of 55.53 in his ten matches and even struck seven of his eight half-centuries in consecutive innings. Not only did it win him an award as Lancashire's Young Player of the Year, it meant the county could allow Stephen Moore to join Derbyshire with few qualms. But only one fact of his game was on show in 2013: he is also a promising left-arm medium-pacer, but a knee injury restricted him to only ten overs as Lancashire won the Second Division title. How he fares at a higher level will be intriguing.

Captain/coach

Glen Chapple starts his sixth season as Lancashire captain, amid the usual concerns about whether it could be his last. Peter Moores has been presented in some quarters as a serious contender for a second stint as England coach and, although the odds seem against it, should that happen it would be a considerable blow.

ESPNcricinfo verdict

Lancashire's over-reliance on Chapple's bowling and the loss of Katich, the mainstay of their batting, suggests survival in Division One will not be secured easily. They should manage it, but their best displays could be reserved for limited-overs cricket.

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