Tuesday, 15 April 2008

2008 Season Preview: Lancashire

Continuing our series of county previews, Ben Fyffe analyses Lancashire's chances in 2008.

2007 in a nutshell
Perhaps feel they should have won the Championship but the wait continues for the red rose county. 4th in Pro40 League One wasn’t a bad result but the FP Trophy performance was nothing short of poor. Reaching the semi-finals in the T20 was nothing to be ashamed of.

Best Performers
Batting: SG Law – 1277 runs @ 63.85.
Bowling: M Muralitharan – 51 wickets @ 18.66.

Limited Overs (not including T20)
Batting: BJ Hodge – 439 runs @ 87.80.
Bowling: SI Mahmood – 20 wickets @ 17.65.

Worst Performers
SJ Croft – this lad isn’t going anywhere quick, his 4 wickets came at 51.75 each while he scored 323 runs @ 21.53.

Limited Overs
DG Cork – a surprise choice but he is far too expensive to be considered a limited overs bowler anymore, 5 wickets at 51.20.

Strongest XI
PJ Horton
IJ Sutcliffe (MJ Chilton)
BJ Hodge
MB Loye (F du Plessis)
SG Law
A Flintoff (DG Cork)
LD Sutton+
G Chapple
SI Mahmood (TCP Smith)
G Keedy (SD Parry)
JM Anderson (OJ Newby)

Limited Overs
GD Cross+ (PJ Horton)
MB Loye
BJ Hodge
SG Law
A Flintoff (DG Cork)
F du Plessis
SJ Croft
G Chapple
SI Mahmood (TCP Smith)
G Keedy (SD Parry)
JM Anderson (KW Hogg).

The sides will not be especially settled, with Flintoff and Anderson likely to spend significant periods away with England (unless they are injured). Furthermore, Lancashire have a large squad and an element of rotation and 'horses for courses' is expected to give them the best possible chance of finally claiming their eighth outright Championship.

Openers: Paul Horton stepped up to the plate last season in place of Iain Sutcliffe at the top of the order. However, with Mark Chilton having resigned as skipper, expect Horton and Sutcliffe to be given the opportunity to develop their partnership.

Middle Order: Strong. Hodge and Loye are proven run-getters; and Stuart Law often looks in a class of his own against Championship attacks. Andrew Flintoff may play more often for Lancs this season in his bid to get match fit. Francois du Plessis, a highly rated Pretorian, is the only new signing at Old Trafford over the winter and will push for a place in this area. At full strength, there is perhaps no better middle-order quartet in county cricket.

Wicketkeeper: Luke Sutton will start as keeper but Paul Horton also keeps and Gareth Cross has done so as well. Sutton’s poor one day record should cost him his limited overs place.

Fast Bowlers: If he plays, Flintoff will hope to take wickets with his international pace. It seems to me that Dominic Cork is ready to be replaced in the team. Assuming England stop preferring James Anderson to Matthew Hoggard, he could spearhead the fast bowling attack this summer for Lancs. Sajid Mahmood has a point to prove, while Glen Chapple is one of the most highly respected bowlers in the league. Backup comes from Tom Smith, Oliver Newby and Kyle Hogg.

Spinners: Gary Keedy is the only recognised spinner at Old Trafford - a stern one day operator and often miserly in the Championship. Stephen Parry is a promising youngster, who may get a chance if Keedy is injured. There is no Murali though.

Key Man: Stuart Law, if he doesn’t get runs then the top order could be susceptible to collapse. He is in his 40th year, but is nonetheless still amongst the most-prized wickets in the county game. His hunger for runs continues to astound and the captaincy could yet bring even more out of him.

Rising Star: Francois du Plessis comes with praise from South Africa and if there are injuries in the middle order, he could realise his potential on English soil, with the South African selectors in town towards the back end of the season.

Captain and Coach: Mike Watkinson is a respected coach and a Lancashire man to the core, but he will be working alongside a new man. Veteran Stuart Law was a tremendously successful Queensland skipper and captained them to their first ever Sheffield Shield triumph, so he knows all about ending long waits for titles. Can these figureheads inspire the team to recover from the disappointment of last season's glorious failure?

2008 Prospects: They have a chance of winning the title of course, but this team isn’t getting any younger and there are other teams who could sneak up on the outside. Their one day prospects don’t look especially spectacular.


Chrispy said...

Lancashire will be there or there abouts, but will the weather be kind to them?! The bowling line up can't be bettered in my opinion and (as with Durham) it is a major reason why they will challenge for the title. The batting can look weak on occasion, but Paul Horton has developed well and the presence of both Brad Hodge and Du Plessis gives them better depth and experience.

martin0201 said...

to have someone of Tom Smiths ability as a back up is an embarrasment of riches in my opinion, and this where Lancs will fall down (again) - they will all be relying on each oter too much. add this to the fact that they will play 50% of match days at Old Trafford and it is difficult to see them having too much success.