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.


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.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • David on March 30, 2014, 13:06 GMT

    Surprised that the 'verdict' is that Lancs are over reliant on Chapple. All three of Chapple, Hogg and Kerrigan got over 50 wickets last year(Chapple took the fewest), Anderson is likely to be available for a big chunk of games this year, Jarvis will play more of a part and in Proctor, Smith & Reece we have guys in the top 7 that can contribute with the ball.

    Being without Kerrigan for any period of time is likely to be more of a problem, Parry and Lilley have not shown the ability of yet to be wicket takers in FC cricket.

    The batting is definitely a worry, I can see Reece having second season blues (I hope not) and we are a quality middle order batsman short. If only we still had Katich at 4

  • Rafi on March 28, 2014, 16:15 GMT

    An XI of Horton, Reece, Prince, Brown, Croft, Buttler, Procter, Chapple, Hogg, Kerrigan, Jarvis is a batsman light, but has a bowling attack equal to any other in the country, especially seeing as Hogg already looks like he's performing similarly to last season in the MCC game. When Buttler's on England duty, Alex Davies will come in, who seems a promising player. Smity, Parry, Aga, Ali, and White waiting in reserve means I think Lancy easily have a strong enough squad to avoid relegation barring rain. There is also (as of yet) no overseas player and plenty of money with which to pay for one.

  • Tom on March 27, 2014, 23:54 GMT

    @pjrfd: that's basically the definition of restraint of trade. In your system, Somerset could offer Buttler a miserly contract that paid the same as his first pro contract, and no other side could touch him without paying a massive fine to Somerset.

    Besides which, it plainly wouldn't have affected this case - Lancashire being 4 places below Somerset in the CC.

    More holes than a sieve I'm afraid.

  • Jem on March 27, 2014, 22:30 GMT

    @pjrfd - with respect, that's a crazy point of view. Would you prefer England's prospective wicketkeeper-batsman for the next 10-15 years to have stayed at Somerset where he wasn't even being given the chance to develop his keeping skills? Buttler made the right decision to travel north - both for his own benefit and that of England. If Lancs also benefit (which they may not if Prior is dumped prematurely as Test keeper) then so be it.

  • Jez on March 27, 2014, 22:09 GMT

    Cross had underperformed for a couple of years - his keeping was poor and his batting got worse since he debuted for Lancs. However Buttler said he wanted to keep wicket but Somerset had made it clear that Kieswetter was their no 1 so what is Buttler supposed to do ? I actually think Lancs may go well in the County Championship this year - Anderson should be available for the 1st half dozen games and probably has something to prove. Also, not only is a 20/20 big signing expected but also another overseas player as Lancs don't currently have any registered with Jarvis and Prince not part of the quota

  • Dummy4 on March 27, 2014, 20:28 GMT

    Why? Jos Buttler did not get the opportunities his huge talent demanded at Somerset because of Kieswetter and England need him to have them. While this may seem harsh on Gareth Cross, he is neither keeper nor batsman enough to attract England attention and thus, rightly, has to take a second seat to a bright prospect.

  • david on March 27, 2014, 19:15 GMT

    i see no problem with buttler signing for lancs. but find your opinion a bit outdated when people can move from one country to another with little problem why a guy ( an englishman ) cannot move from one county to another to get more 1 st team cricket. I for one will be pleased to watch him plying his trade. another couple of fast bowlers might be handy as well. we do seem to struggle getting cricketers from the leagues to 1st glass level, the reason i have no idea why.

  • Frazer on March 27, 2014, 18:52 GMT

    Don't think this is an example of poaching. While Lancs won the championship 2 years ago, Somerset have been more consistently competitive, especially in one day cricket, recently than lancs, so this is a sideways move, not a poach. To progress his career, he needed a shot at being first choice keeper, which somerset wouldn't offer because of kieswetter. My worry is now cross had been released, who's going to keep when Buttler plays for England (perhaps even in the test team, although I think that's too soon)

  • Rana on March 27, 2014, 18:34 GMT

    Cross is average. You can't be averaging 24(and 24 last season in div 2) with the bat at the age of 29 and not have your position questioned.

    This transfer shows by Buttler a real desire to succeed and make the best of his abilities. He could have stayed at Somerset not keeping but taking a large contract increase. Instead he took up to Lancashire where he will get the chance to improve his wicketkeeping and push for England selection in all 3 formats.

    Lancashire in turn had decided that Cross wasn't good enough and given his age wasn't going to improve enough to warrant selection and brought in the best replacement they could. I see no problem with that at all.

  • Paul on March 27, 2014, 17:38 GMT

    Ditching home-bred Gareth Cross for Buttler was shabby in the extreme. I sincerely hope Buttler is chosen for England in all formats, & Lancashire never see him. High time the ECB took steps to discourage transfers such as this - for example, a 'county rankings' system, similar to that used for international teams. It could rate counties on performances across all three formats. No player (offered a new contract by their current county) would be allowed to transfer to a county ranked more than, say, two places above their own, without the 'poaching' county having to pay an absolutely massive fine as compensation - hundreds of thousands; this way, it's probably still legal, & not 'restraint of trade', but would be a massive deterrent, & encourage counties to 'breed their own'.

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