Everything's coming up Red Roses for Moores the merrier

Lancashire's new coach is loving his county challenge after pain of England axe

There are, the former England coach Peter Moores maintained last week, fewer differences between county and international cricket than some in the media might have us believe. "International cricket is about preparation," said Moores, meeting the press for the first time since taking on a similar role at Lancashire.

"Though it's a busy schedule, the preparation is quite intense, it builds up. I think that is something that's come into county cricket. You play so much in county cricket, but you still have to try and find time to be doing your skills work, your physical work, to make sure you can maintain performance throughout the season. We all know the trophies are won in the back half of the season, and that's when it's important to have everybody fit and strong."

Moores' point may have been a technical one, but a seven per cent rise in attendances at Championship games last season suggests media fixation with the international game may not be accurately reflecting the feelings of many cricket lovers.

While anyone with the remotest interest in the sport will follow developments in the Ashes, it is also clear that not only is interest in Champ-ionship cricket almost always under-estimated, it is growing. Reasons are not hard to find. On the field, as Moores indicated, the quality of cricket is increasingly high, certainly in Division One, where most matches are fiercely competitive.

Off it, watching a domestic game is usually a far more pleasant experience. It is much cheaper, facilities at most county grounds are reasonably good – often outstanding for members – and the crowd, other than at some limited-overs games, is less unpleasantly raucous. For many long-standing cricket watchers, England matches have been ruined by the self-styled Barmy Army, whose incessant, alcohol-fuelled, football-style chanting is as painfully tedious as it is mind-numbingly unoriginal.

Not everything is positive, obviously. The number of Kolpak players in both divisions, but particularly the lower tier, continues to hold back the development of young English talent, while making it more difficult for supporters to identify with their counties. But for those hundreds of thousands whose attention is not fixed on Team England to the exclusion of all else, it promises to be a Championship season as interesting as the last, when the final round of matches began with three counties still in with a chance of taking the title.

Interesting for the players too. As Glen Chapple, seated alongside Moores, pointed out, the definition of domestic success remains simple. "All four trophies are important to us, but the Championship is the one that everybody wants," said Lancashire's new captain. "Every year we go out there believing we can win it, and this season's no different."

The early indications are that Chapple, a somewhat less self-regarding individual than Kevin Pietersen, has already established a good relationship with Moores, and that the Lancashire players have responded similarly positively to the new regime. Sajid Mahmood said he had seen an improvement "in everything".

"All our training sessions are as close to match intensity as possible," said Mahmood. "It is hard work and he [Moores] has made a lot of changes, but the guys are enjoying it. He has a lot of ideas and he enjoys a challenge."

Even so, the loss of experienced players such as Stuart Law and Dominic Cork, together with the unavailability of an England contingent including Andrew Flintoff, James Anderson and possibly Mahmood, would appear to make a first outright Red Rose Championship since 1934 an unlikely prospect. But not unrealistic, insisted Moores. "For us to win things we'll have to play very well, we'll need a bit of luck and we'll need to keep key players fit, but that's part of the fun and part of the adventure. We'll know in September."

As to whether he was frustrated not to be involved in the bid to regain the Ashes, Moores shook his head. "No, not any more. It's like most things, when you lose a job like that, at the time it hurts, but things have moved on pretty quickly. As soon as you get to work with another group of players, and see their passion and become part of that, you're not looking back any more, you're only looking forward.

"The game is the same, it's still about getting people to enjoy it, while recognising they have to work hard to become better. If we win as a county it will be because Glen's led a set of blokes who have played really good cricket. The coach can input to a degree, but when the players go out they have got to do their stuff. That's no different whether it's international, county or local league cricket."

Key dates Counties

Wed 15 April: First round of the County Championship

Mon 25 May: Twenty20 Cup starts

Sat 25 July: Friends Provident Trophy final, Lord's

Sat 15 Aug: Twenty20 Cup finals day, Edgbaston

Sat 26 Sept: Final day of the County Championship

England v West Indies

Wed 6 May: First Test, Lord's

Thurs 14 May: Second Test, Chester-le-Street

Thurs 21 May: First One-Day International, Headingley

Sun 24 May: Second ODI, Bristol

Tues 26 May: Third ODI, Edgbaston

Wed 3 June: Twenty20 International, Lord's (5.30pm)

World twenty20

Fri 5 June: England v Holland, Lord's (5.30pm)

Sun 7 June: England v Pakistan, The Oval (5.30pm)

Sun 21 June: Final, Lord's (3pm)

england v Australia

Wed 8 July: First Test, Cardiff

Thurs 16 July: Second Test, Lord's

Thurs 30 July: Third Test, Edgbaston

Fri 7 Aug: Fourth Test, Headingley

Thurs 20 Aug: Fifth Test, The Oval

Sun 30 Aug: 1st Twenty20 International, Old Trafford (5.30pm)

Tues 1 Sept: 2nd Twenty20 v International, Old Trafford (5.30pm)

Fri 4 Sept: 1st One-Day International, The Oval*

Sun 6 Sept: 2nd ODI, Lord's

Wed 9 Sept: 3rd ODI, Rose Bowl*

Sat 12 Sept: 4th ODI, Lord's

Tues 15 Sept: 5th ODI, Trent Bridge*

Thurs 17 Sept: 6th ODI, Trent Bridge*

Sun 20 Sept: 7th ODI, Riverside*

* Denotes day/night.

County by county guide: Division one

DURHAM

2008: Champions.

HEAD COACH: Geoff Cook.

CAPTAIN: Will Smith.

OVERSEAS PLAYERS: David Warner (Aus; Twenty20 Cup), Shivnarine Chanderpaul (WI; June onwards)

IN: Warner, Ian Blackwell (Somerset).

OUT: Garry Park (Derbys), Gary Scott (released).

PROSPECTS: The new captain Smith has a hard act to follow after taking over from Dale Benkenstein but, if Blackwell adds more weight to the batting, they have the all-round strength to defend their first title successfully.

PREDICTION: Champions.

HAMPSHIRE

2008: 3rd.

TEAM MANAGER: Giles White.

Captain: Dmitri Mascarenhas.

Overseas players: Imran Tahir (Pak); Marcus North (Aus; May).

In: Dominic Cork (Lancs).

Out: Michael Brown (Surrey), Greg Lamb, Kevin Latouf, Richard Morris, Nantie Hayward, Rory Kleinveldt (all released).

Prospects: If Pakistan-born leg-spinner Imran Tahir can recover from a fractured jaw and continue the form that brought him 44 wickets late last season, they could well be top-three contenders again.

Prediction: 3rd.

LANCASHIRE

2008: 5th.

Coach: Peter Moores.

Captain: Glen Chapple.

Overseas players: Ashwell Prince (SA; April-May), VVS Laxman (Ind; May-Sept).

In: Simon Kerrigan, Steven Cheetham (both youth), Adrian Shankar (Cambridge Uni).

Out: Dominic Cork (Hants), Simon Marshall (released), Stuart Law (Derbys), Iain Sutcliffe (retired).

PROSPECTS: The arrival of former England coach Moores will raise expectations but with Cork, Law and Sutcliffe at the end of the line, even supreme Lancashire optimists may see this as a transitional year.

PREDICTION: 5th.

NOTTINGHAMSHIRE

2008: Runners-up

Director of cricket: Mick Newell.

Captain: Chris Read.

Overseas player: Adam Voges (Aus).

In: Jason Brown (Northants), Ali Brown (Surrey), Andy Carter (Lincolnshire).

Out: AJ Harris (Leics), Rob Ferley (Kent), Gareth Clough (released).

Preview: Apart from faltering at the last hurdle to allow Durham to take the title, they seemed to thrive under Read's leadership. Recruitment of the Browns can underpin another challenge for the top prize.

Prediction: Runners-up.

SOMERSET

2008: 4th.

Director of cricket: Brian Rose.

Captain: Justin Langer.

Overseas player: Langer (Aus).

IN: David Stiff (League).

Out: Rob Woodman (Gloucs), Ian Blackwell (Durham), Andy Sutton (released).

PROSPECTS: Langer will lead from the front but, with Blackwell gone, they could find it difficult to match last season's fourth and may find themselves struggling to keep out of the bottom two.

Prediction: 8th.



SUSSEX

2008: 6th.

Professional cricket manager: Paul Robinson.

Captain: Michael Yardy.

Overseas player: Yasir Arafat (Pak).

In: Yasir Arafat, Ed Joyce (Middlesex), Pepler Sandri (Cape Cobras, South Africa; Italian passport).

Out: Mushtaq Ahmed, Chris Adams (both retired), Ryan Harris (released).

PROSPECTS: Much as Joyce looks a good signing, the loss of Adams' leadership and Mushtaq's spin leaves Yardy facing a difficult first year as captain. They may be happy to say in Division One.

Prediction: 7th.



WARWICKSHIRE

2008: Division Two champions.

Coach: Ashley Giles.

Captain: Ian Westwood.

Overseas player: Jeetan Patel (NZ).

In: Patel, Rikki Clarke (Derbys).

Out: Lee Daggett (Northants), Tim Groenewald (Derbys), Ian Salisbury (retired), Michael Powell, Stuart Hole, Nick James, Luke Parker (all released).

PROSPECTS: Division Two title confirmed a revival is under way but with Westwood forced to miss the start through injury it will be a surprise if they do much more than consolidate.

Prediction: 6th.



WORCESTERSHIRE

2008: Division Two runners-up.

Director of cricket: Steve Rhodes.

Captain: Vikram Solanki.

Overseas player: Ashley Noffke (Aus).

In: Ian Fisher (Gloucs).

Out: Graeme Hick (retired).

Prospects: Fresh doubts over whether Noffke will be fit have not helped preparations for life without Hick and the safety of seventh place may be too much to ask.

Prediction: 9th.



YORKSHIRE

2008: 7th.

Director of cricket: Martyn Moxon.

Captain: Anthony McGrath.

Overseas player: Rana Naved-ul-Hasan (Pak).

In: Azeem Rafiq (youth), Jonathan Bairstow (youth), Lee Hodgson (Surrey).

Out: Darren Gough (retired), Mark Lawson (Derbys), Greg Wood (released).

PROSPECTS: Gough's dream of leading Yorkshire to the title in his last season went so wrong it almost ended in relegation but there is enough talent to suggest that, having survived their brush with relegation, a top-four finish is possible.

Prediction: 4th.

Jon Culley

County by county guide: Division two

DERBYSHIRE

2008: 6th.

HEAD OF CRICKET: John Morris.

CAPTAIN: Chris Rogers.

OVERSEAS PLAYER: Rogers (Aus).

IN: Stuart Law (Lancs; one-day), Tim Groenewald (Warks), Garry Park (Durham), Mark Lawson (Yorks), Atif Sheikh, Paul Borrington (both youth).

OUT: Rikki Clarke (Warks), Kevin Dean (retired), Nayan Doshi, Wayne White, Liam Hughes, Chris Paget, Akhil Patel, Ollie Saffell (released).

PROSPECTS: Landing Stuart Law could make them dark horses in one-day cricket but lack of depth and experience in four-day squad suggests they will be also-rans again.

PREDICTION: 8th.

ESSEX

2008: 5th.

COACH: Paul Grayson.

CAPTAIN: Mark Pettini.

OVERSEAS PLAYER: Danish Kaneria (Pak).

IN: Matt Walker (Kent), John Maunders (out of contract).

OUT: Alex Tudor (Surrey).

PROSPECTS: Confident after winning one-day tournament in Sharjah, the 2008 Friends Provident champions may find limited-overs their best hope of success again but a good season for leg-spinner Kaneria could put them in the top four.

PREDICTION: 4th.



GLAMORGAN

2008: 9th.

MANAGER: Matthew Maynard.

CAPTAIN: Jamie Dalrymple.

OVERSEAS PLAYERS: Mark Cosgrove (Aus; April-July), Herschelle Gibbs (SA; July-Sept).

IN: Garnett Kruger (Leics).

OUT: Matthew Wood (retired), David Hemp, Jason Gillespie, Richard Grant, Kyle Tudge (released).

PROSPECTS: Development of Welsh talent augurs well for the future. Sophia Gardens' Test status is another marker for better days ahead. But this season may be too soon for significant progress.

PREDICTION: 9th.

GLOUCESTERSHIRE

2008: 9th.

DIRECTOR OF CRICKET: John Bracewell.

CAPTAIN: Alex Gidman.

OVERSEAS PLAYER: James Franklin (NZ).

IN: Rob Woodman (Somerset), Richard Dawson, Ian Saxelby (Notts).

OUT: Marcus North (Hants), Ian Fisher (Worcs), Carl Greenidge, Mark Hardinges, Will Rudge (all released).

PROSPECTS: With Bracewell back in charge, they will hope to improve on last season's dismal Championship but if they finish out of the bottom two, it will be an achievement.

PREDICTION: 7th.



KENT

2008: 8th in Division One (relegated).

COACH: Graham Ford.

CAPTAIN: Rob Key.

OVERSEAS PLAYER: Stuart Clark (Aus; April-June).

IN: Rob Ferley (Notts), James Hockley (League).

OUT: Matt Walker (Essex), Neil Dexter (Middx), Yasir Arafat (Sussex).

PROSPECTS: If they recover from relegation, they look to have too much quality to stay down. As Clark tries to force his way into the Ashes, he could help to win the division.

PREDICTION: Champions.



LEICESTERSHIRE

2008: 7th.

SENIOR COACH: Tim Boon.

CAPTAIN: Paul Nixon.

OVERSEAS PLAYER: Iain O'Brien (NZ).

IN: AJ Harris (Notts).

OUT: Garnett Kruger (Glam), Ryan Cummins (Northants), Dillon Du Preez, Robin Malcolm-Hansen, Harry Gurney (all released).

PROSPECTS: Harris and O'Brien will help the attack but batting doubts mean they may have to settle for mid-table.

PREDICTION: 6th.



MIDDLESEX

2008: 3rd.

HEAD COACH: Toby Radford.

CAPTAIN: Shaun Udal.

OVERSEAS PLAYERS: Phillip Hughes (Aus; April-May), Murali Kartik (Ind; May-Sept).

IN: Neil Dexter (Kent).

OUT: Ed Smith (retired), Ed Joyce (Sussex), Vernon Philander, Chris Peploe, Dirk Nannes, Mark Jackson (all released).

PROSPECTS: All eyes will be on exciting Aussie batting prospect Hughes early on but it's the depth of their bowling that suggests they can step up and return to Division One.

PREDICTION: Runners-up.



NORTHAMPTONSHIRE

2008: 4th.

COACH: David Capel.

CAPTAIN: Nicky Boje.

OVERSEAS PLAYERS: Johan van der Wath (SA).

IN: Jack Brooks (Oxfordshire), Lee Daggett (Warks), Ryan Cummins (Leics).

OUT: Jason Brown (Notts), Lance Klusener, Richard Logan, Richard Browning, Johann Louw (all released).

PROSPECTS: They will at least hope to match last season's commendable fourth but may find it tough in a competitive division among more obvious promotion contenders.

PREDICTION: 5th.



SURREY

2008: 9th in Division One (relegated).

PROFESSIONAL CRICKET MANAGER: Chris Adams.

CAPTAIN: Mark Butcher.

OVERSEAS PLAYERS: Grant Elliott (NZ; April-May).

IN: Michael Brown (Hants), Alex Tudor (Essex), Andre Nel (SA, Kolpak).

OUT: Ali Brown (Notts), Lee Hodgson (Yorks), Neil Saker, Richard Clinton, Saqlain Mushtaq, Matt Nicholson (all released).

PROSPECTS: Butcher's knee injury rules him out at the start but, with Nel and all-rounder Elliott adding quality in the bowling and successful Sussex captain Adams bringing leadership off the field, Surrey are promotion contenders.

PREDICTION: 3rd.

Jon Culley

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor winner Ben Haenow has scored his first Christmas number one
music
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
tv
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
News
Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
people
Extras
indybest
News
peopleLiam Williams posted photo of himself dressed as Wilfried Bony
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick