Relegation and Promotion (2012-2014)
Following the euphoria of their Championship success in 2011, Lancashire suffered the shock of relegation the following season becoming the third side, after Notts and Yorkshire, to drop out of the top flight the year after winning the title since the introduction of two divisions in 2000. However Glen Chapple’s side put that disappointment behind them to clinch the Division 2 title in 2013 and bounce straight back up.
Unfortunately top flight status only lasted one season, with a second relegation in three years sending the Red Rose back down in their 150th anniversary season. A narrow defeat in the 2014 NatWest T20 Blast final was one of the few bright spots in a very mixed, and disappointing season.
The seasons of 2011 and 2012 were like chalk and cheese as relegation to the second tier hit the county.
Swap the early winning streak of 2011 for a losing streak the following season, and the season could not be rescued as some sketchy form and poor weather combined to consign the county to their first campaign in Division Two since 2005.
No player took 50 Championship wickets, and only overseas batsman Ashwell Prince topped 1,000 runs as the Red Rose won one match, lost five and drew ten. The end of the season also saw stalwart Gary Keedy end his 18-year stay at Old Trafford by moving to Surrey in search of more first-team cricket following Simon Kerrigan’s emergence as the number one spinner.
Kerrigan’s performances – he took a county high 44 wickets at 34.81 – were a major positive from the season, as were Steven Croft’s performances in all forms of the game, particularly in one-day cricket.
Croft’s 513 runs in the Clydesdale Bank 40 helped the Lightning reach the semi-finals of that competition, while his 313 in Twenty20 earned him a place in England’s provisional 30-man squad for the World Twenty20 later in the year. He did not make the final cut of 15, but ended the year playing domestic cricket in New Zealand as the overseas player for the Northern Knights.
Croft’s performances were often explosive, a word that perfectly describes Tom Smith’s record-breaking century in a washed out 40-over match against Worcestershire in late August. Smith smashed 106 off 46 balls, bringing up his hundred off 44 and placing his his ton equal-fifth fastest in List A matches in the world and equal third in domestic cricket.
After relegation in the County Championship in 2012, Lancashire made light work of returning to the top flight in 2013 as they only lost one match on the way to the Division Two title – the final match of the season against Kent at Canterbury when the hosts chased down 400 plus to win late on the final day.
The year started with the Red Rose club announcing a landmark sponsorship deal with Fly Emirates, the Dubai based Airline, for the naming rights of Old Trafford and the shirt sponsorship in Twenty20.
The main part of the deal, worth up to £10m over ten years, would see Old Trafford become Emirates Old Trafford ahead of the return of Ashes cricket to the North West in August. The fourth Test of the series ended up being drawn as England retained the Ashes, going on to claim a 3-0 series win.
Lancashire’s performances on the field were impressive in the Championship and encouraging in limited overs cricket. Although they missed out on qualification for semi-finals of the Clydesdale Bank 40 competition, they reached the quarter-finals in Twenty20, only to be knocked out by 1 run in a thriller by a strong Hampshire side.
The Red Rose’s Championship success was built upon senior batsmen Simon Katich, the club’s overseas player, and Ashwell Prince both topping 1,000 runs for the season and three men in captain Glen Chapple, fellow opening bowler Kyle Hogg and left-arm spinner Simon Kerrigan all topping 50 wickets.
There were a number of exhilarating wins, including back-to-back come from behind wins early in the season against Glamorgan at Colwyn Bay and Essex at Emirates Old Trafford to kick start the title push.
Chapple’s men also pegged back early pacesetters Northamptonshire with twin successes mid-season, but the win that took all the headlines came against Essex at Chelmsford in June when the hosts were bowled out for just 20 in their second innings as Lancashire won by an innings and 105 runs. Chapple took 5-9 and Hogg 4-11, and no side has ever been bowled out for fewer runs by Lancashire in first-class cricket. The following week, Northants were bowled out for 62 in the first innings of the match at Emirates Old Trafford.
There were a number of individual highlights for Lancashire players in 2013. Opening batsman Luis Reece shone in his debut season in four-day cricket to win the club’s young player of the year award, while Kerrigan made his Test debut for England in the final Ashes Test of the summer at the Oval. It was not the debut he would have hoped for, going for 53 runs in eight overs, but he will be back. In debuting for England, Kerrigan became the first product of Lancashire’s Academy to graduate through to the Test match arena.
Lancashire’s cricketers endured a largely frustrating 2014 which ended in the disappointment of LV= County Championship relegation, despite taking their bid to avoid the drop to an pulsating finale against Middlesex at Emirates Old Trafford. They won three times in the Championship, including twice against bottom side Northamptonshire and once against defending champions Durham in one of the most thrilling finishes in recent memory.
The high point of the summer for Glen Chapple’s side proved to be a string of superb performances in the NatWest T20 Blast, with the Lightning only falling at the final hurdle. They were only a six away from beating the Birmingham Bears on their home patch at Edgbaston. The T20 competition also saw the surprise return of Andrew Flintoff to first team action, five years after he had retired from cricket. ‘Freddie’ took a wicket with his first ball in the Final, and hit two late-order sixes to take Lightning close to victory.
The departure of coach Peter Moores to England in May after two games was an obvious inconvenience, as was the August retirement of club stalwart Kyle Hogg due to a back injury. However, the main issue came in the batting department as the Red Rose only passed 300 in their first innings five times in the Championship and were largely chasing games as a result.
Ashwell Prince was the only batsman who topped 1,000 runs, a haul which included a career best 257 not out in the home win against Northants.
There were obvious signs of encouragement. Karl Brown was exceptional in all limited overs cricket. He scored 373 runs from seven one-day outings, including a superb century against Yorkshire at Emirates Old Trafford, and 467 from 15 T20s, including four fifties.
Paul Horton’s combined form across all formats deserves credit, in particular his captaincy in T20 and his runs – 275 from 15 matches, his best campaign to date in that competition, while new signing Jos Buttler’s graduation through to Test cricket should also not be forgotten.
However, the Red Rose side’s standout performer of the summer was undoubtedly all-rounder Tom Smith, who finished with 773 runs and took 54 four-day wickets to mark the best season of his career. He deservedly earned his England Lions call-up for a one-day triangular series also involving the A sides of New Zealand and Sri Lanka in early August.