Steven Croft was appointed Lancashire’s permanent captain ahead of 2016, a season which saw the club retain their Division One status in the County Championship for the first time in three attempts. It was his first of two years as permanent skipper.
Croft was handed the role after Tom Smith stepped down to concentrate on his own battle for fitness after missing all but one match in 2015.
Blackpool-born Croft also led the Red Rose during that season as a stand-in, and he steered the county to their maiden NatWest T20 Blast title.
That particular campaign proved to be the all-rounder’s most productive, contributing with runs, wickets and catches to boot.
In 2017, he led the side to second place in the Championship, although he will count the summer as a pretty frustrating one personally, with it disrupted by injury and loss of form.
He even took the brave decision to drop himself for a run of Championship games before returning to score a popular century in the final match of the season against Surrey at Emirates Old Trafford.
2018 will be the 33-year-old’s benefit year, an honour richly deserved.
Liam Livingstone, however, took on the captaincy ahead of 2018, with director of cricket Paul Allott saying of Croft upon the hierarchy making the decision to replace him as he fights to regain a regular place in the team: “You couldn’t find a better team man. He’s done wonders for the team.”
Croft will always go down in Lancashire folklore as the man who hit the winning runs to secure Championship title glory for the first time in 77 years when he did it on the fourth day against Somerset at Taunton in 2011.
A talismanic player, particularly in white ball cricket, Croft will do any job asked of him, highlighted best in 2016 when he took the wicketkeeping gloves for half a season due to injuries to Jos Buttler and Alex Davies.
Unfortunately, as admirable a job as he did, it affected his form with the bat, and he was only able to return 713 runs.
He is a player who has developed his career alongside the growth of Twenty20 cricket, but has ensured he can succeed in all formats with determination and hard work.
Croft was named as the club’s Player of the Year in 2012, scoring 513 40-over runs and 313 from eight Twenty20s, leaving him amongst the top five run-scorers in the country.
As a result, he was named in England’s provisional 30-man squad for the World Twenty20 at the end of the summer, although he did not make the final cut of 15.
He did, however, earn a winter deal to play T20 cricket in New Zealand for Northern Districts. He had also played for Auckland earlier in his career.
Unfortunately, 2013 did not quite go to plan as he found himself out of the Championship team due to patchy form with the bat.
He only played eight matches, and although he scored one hundred and two fifties, the century came as a match against Hampshire drifted to a draw during the final day at Southampton.
Croft, who learnt the game whilst growing up in Sri Lanka as his father spent time there working, arrived in Lancashire’s Academy in 2003, was awarded a scholarship in 2004 and made his first-class debut for the county at Oxford University in 2005.
He burst on to the first-team scene with a bang in 2006 by hitting the last ball of a Twenty20 match against Leicestershire at Grace Road for six over cover to secure an unlikely win.
And he did the same again in 2008 by crashing Graham Onions in the same direction to win a 50-over Trophy match against Durham at Old Trafford.
Mind you, he has always had a liking for the spectacular.
Just ask Michael Vaughan, who was the victim of a stunning one-handed catch at deep mid-wicket during a Twenty20 Roses match at Old Trafford in 2009.
He was the first of the club’s Academy products to be given a professional contract ahead of his first-class debut in 2005.
After holding down a regular place in the Championship side in 2007 – batting at number three at times – he won the Young Player of the Year award, starting a rise to one of Lancashire’s most trusted performers.
Croft has topped 800 Championship runs in a season twice in his career, in 2010 and again in 2015, the latter campaign seeing him harness spectacular form in the T20 as well.
He scored 478 runs from 16 matches with five fifties, including a best of 94 not out.
In 2016, Croft broke the English record for consecutive T20 appearances for one team, reaching 131 from June 2006 to July 2016.
Ahead of 2018, that stands at 143 and counting. Only Indians Virat Kohli (144) and Suresh Raina (156) are ahead of him. Kohli’s run, however, has ended.
Croft, one of the best fielders in English cricket, has also developed from a medium paced bowler in his younger days to become a wily off-spinner.
Returning to appearance statistics, Croft broke a finger in the opening Championship match of the 2017 season against Essex at Chelmsford, meaning he only played six of the subsequent eight Royal London one-day Cup group matches..
Prior to that, he last missed a one-day match when he was left out of the 2006 C&G Trophy final team which lost to Sussex at Lord’s.