2008 County Preview - Lancashire
Lancashire came so close to winning the coveted County Championship in 2007, famously missing out by 24 runs against Surrey on the final day. That failure will no
doubt drive the club forward, and they will be hoping that their luck turns – yet again, games were ruined by bad weather both at Old Trafford and elsewhere. There is no doubt that they have a strong enough line up to win the Championship, for which the wait goes on – at the end of 2008 it will be 74 years and counting.
There have not been many changes over the winter, although overseas players Sanath Jayasuriya, Muttiah Muralitharan and VVS Laxman are not scheduled to return. In comes promising young South African batsman Francois du Plessis to bolster the batting order that already boasts the impressive talents of Stuart Law, Brad Hodge and Mal Loye.
Du Plessis arrives on a Kolpak deal with a good record behind him with the Nashua Titans, averaging just under 40 with a top score of 156 in first-class cricket and is a more than handy leg-spinning all-rounder and should prove to be a good acquisition for Lancashire. He also has experience playing in England, scoring three consecutive centuries for Nottinghamshire’s second team in 2006.
Lancashire will look for an improved showing in One Day cricket, and with internationals Andrew Flintoff and Sajid Mahmood continuing their rehabilitation from injuries with the county, they ought to be able to mount a better challenge in the Friends Provident Trophy and the Twenty20 Cup.They finished third in the Pro40 Division One last year but only won three times. If they can improve on that win record, and with all their players fit and in form, they should be able to do so, they should be right up there.
If all goes well for Flintoff, he may well be back with England, and James Anderson almost certainly will be, but Lancashire have the bowling stocks to be able to cover absences with the experience of Dominic Cork, Glen Chapple and Gary Keedy backed up by youngsters Tom Smith and Oliver Newby. There has been a change in captaincy for 2008, with Mark Chilton stepping down and allowing Law to take over the reigns. The 39-year-old has previously captained Queensland with much success and will be hoping he can have a similar effect on his county.
He was Lancashire’s leading run scorer in 2007 with Paul Horton following close behind and similar form from him and other key players such as Mal Loye and Luke Sutton should see Lancashire challenging on all fronts in 2008. Viewed as perennial underachievers, and in some quarters as over-rated, perhaps 2008 will be the year in which they can prove some of their doubters wrong.
In: Francois Du Plessis
County Championship Division One: 3rd
Pro40 Division Two: Winners
Friends Provident Trophy: Semi-Finals
Twenty20 Cup: Finals Day
Star Man: Stuart Law
Top Tip: Francois Du Plessis
By John Pennington