This has been an unsettling spring for Lancashire. Huge projected losses prompted dire warnings about the future, attaching even greater importance to the protracted legal battle over the redevelopment of Old Trafford. Meanwhile, a 90-degree realignment of the square has brought a seismic shift in the geography of the 154-year-old ground, albeit one with benefits for some. Finally, 116 years after it was built, members sitting in the grand Victorian pavilion can watch the action from behind the bowler's arm.
The team has scarcely been given a second thought, the annual reminder that Lancashire have not won the Championship outright since 1934 notable for being mentioned almost only in passing. To Peter Moores, the lack of attention has been rather welcome.
"No, it hasn't been talked about much this time," the Lancashire coach said. "Everybody knows we have lost a lot of senior players in the last three years and have had to go down a different route, with no overseas batsman. But we have some good young players and I've told them to embrace the opportunity."
So far, they are taking him at his word. Four matches into the new season, they lead the Division One table following a 147-run victory over Warwickshire, completed on Friday with a day to spare. What has pleased Moores, assessing the progress of a squad which, even with Glen Chapple (37) and Gary Keedy (36) continuing to play central roles, has an average age of only 27, is that those "good young players" have produced key performances.
Batting at No 3, 22-year-old Karl Brown already has a century and two 50s in the Championship, all-rounder Luke Procter, 22, scored 89 at Hove and took his first wickets at Edgbaston, wicketkeeper Gareth Cross, at 26 finally out of Luke Sutton's shadow, also has a hundred and two 50s. This week, Simon Kerrigan, the 21-year-old left-arm spinner, delivered the best spell of his career, finishing with extraordinary figures of five for seven from seven overs as Warwickshire were routed for 97.
"We have a small squad and everyone gets an opportunity," Moores said. "They are all going to have to make a contribution at different times if we are to win and be consistent. But we have lads who are excited about playing. Gareth Cross is in his first full season in all forms of the game and has started really well. Brown has come in for the first time really and cemented himself a place, and Tom Smith was doing well with bat and ball before he got injured.
"But that's opened the way for Procter. He has come in and taken his opportunity and now Kerrigan has grabbed his chance. What is nice is that 16 of the 19 players are Lancashire lads. That makes it an exciting time for the club. The players who have left have created openings for the younger players, not just to secure a place in the team but to take a senior role. The key now is whether they can take those opportunities."Reuse content