'We Have The Ability To Challenge In All Competitions'
Young spinner Simon Kerrigan was a frustrated spectator as Lancashire kicked off their County Championship campaign with a thumping win over Sussex. The experienced Gary Keedy got the nod ahead of the 21-year-old from Preston and his 5-41 in the second innings helped the Red Rose county dodge the Liverpool weather to grab victory on a dramatic final day.
Kerrigan admits he was 'disappointed' to miss out on the turning wicket at Aigburth, but reckons he will still get his chance to impress.
In the first of a regular series of articles from the Lancashire camp, Simon looks at the season ahead and, despite the county having a smaller squad than most, he insists they can challenge for honours.
"It was great to get off the mark with a thumping good win over Sussex at Liverpool on Monday. Naturally I would have preferred to have been on the field for the opening County Championship game of the season.
"But, while there is fierce competition for places in the team, we are such a tight-knit squad that we all celebrate each other’s successes.
"We were all delighted for captain Glen Chapple when he picked up his 750th first class wicket for the county. I’m not far off that feat myself – only 718 to go!
"And there was no-one happier than me to see fellow spinner Gary Keedy get a vital five-fer in the second innings to help bowl Sussex out on a rain-hit final day.
"There are three of us, left-arm finger spinners, in the squad and I suppose that makes competition in that department even more intense than in most other positions.
"But both Pazza (Stephen Parry) and me enjoyed seeing Keeds take 5-41 as he and the skipper mopped up seven wickets between them for just 23 runs in 63 minutes on that final day to secure victory.
"All three of us know we will get opportunities this season and so we are happy to back each other up. It was nice after the game to hear Gareth Cross doing an interview with the BBC in which he was asked: 'How did your batters combat Monty Panesar so well this game?'
"Crossy replied: 'We have three left arm spinners in our squad and I feel that all three of them are better than Panesar, so we have great preparation.'"
"He’s never afraid to speak his mind, Crossy. But I think it was still a great compliment to us all.
"Looking at the Liverpool pitch taking spin it was disappointing to miss out. But I’m sure that if I keep bowling well in training I won’t be far away from selection.
"Once that comes then I will just have to make sure I take the opportunity and make my mark on the Championship season.
As I said, competition is fierce in the spinning department, especially in the Championship where we might only play one spinner.
"On some occasions there will be two selected, but it is more likely we will play two in the one-day games. A lot has been said and written about the size of the Lancashire squad this season. We have only 19 players and that includes Jimmy Anderson who will probably only play a couple of county games due to his England commitments. In comparison to other major county sides and to past Lancashire teams, that is a small squad.
"But most of the players are home grown and have played together for most of our careers. To my mind that is a major strength.
"Compared to previous years there will be good opportunities for all of us at some stage in a very compact season.
And I genuinely feel we have the ability to challenge in all the competitions – as long as we keep our key players free of injury.
"The Sussex game at Aigburth showed what a strong all-round team we are. We dominated a good Sussex side and ran out winners by an innings and some.
"While I have given the bowlers a lot of praise for that result, I should give an equal amount to the batsmen who performed as well as I saw us bat all last year.
"Karl Brown did magnificently to claim his maiden first-class century (114). But he was just one of five consecutive batsmen, from number four to number eight, who got beyond a half-century
"Mark Chilton hit 87, Steven Croft got 64, Tom Smith 60 and Crossy 63 to take us beyond their first innings of 242 to a marvellous total of 472 and give us the chance to go for the win.
"To get off to such a good start has given us the confidence to go on into the Somerset game, also at Liverpool, feeling good about ourselves and keen to make it two out of two."