Dane Vilas 'encouraged' by 2020 season
The Red Rose skipper pleased with a 'stepping stone' for the coming years after a young squad reached the Vitality Blast semi-finals
Captain Dane Vilas has described Lancashire’s summer as a “stepping stone” ahead of future campaigns.
Two months without silverware in either the Bob Willis Trophy or the Vitality Blast - they reached Finals Day for the eighth time in the club’s history in the latter - saw six youngsters make their First XI debuts and some other standout individual returns, including wicketkeeper batsman Alex Davies with seven fifties across both formats.
Georges Balderson, Burrows and Lavelle were joined by Tom Hartley, Jack Morley and Ed Moulton in making their bows, with all-rounder Balderson and left-arm spinner Hartley the pick of the bunch.
The Red Rose were hurt by England call-ups and injuries and, although bounced back well, could not recover from losing their opening Bob Willis game against Leicestershire at Worcester’s New Road to mount a challenge to top the North Group.
They ended with two wins, two draws and a defeat, finishing third in the North.
In the Blast, they were beaten semi-finalists by Nottinghamshire at Edgbaston having claimed the Roses double over Yorkshire in the group stage and then superbly won their quarter-final against Sussex at Hove when defending only 141.
“It’s been encouraging for us,” said Vilas. “Having six debutants is massive. It shows you what depth we’ve got with the guys who have come in.
“As much as it’s been a disappointing season with the whole Covid thing and everything, it’s given us an opportunity to look at some young players and them an opportunity to play.
“Guys like Baldy and Tommy Hartley played five four-day games in a row aside from the T20s. Depth in our squad is exactly what we need.
“It’s been a stepping stone for us.
“We were obviously disappointed to lose that first four-day game against Leicestershire, who played fantastically well. But the way we came back and won two out of the final four games was quite positive.
“I’m especially happy with how we finished off against Derbyshire, who were top of the North Group at the time. We went out and beat them with a young side at Liverpool.
“We were very confident of challenging in all formats this year, and it increases that ahead of next year.”
Back injuries to seamers Richard Gleeson and Graham Onions, the latter’s being career-ending, were obviously costly, while Matthew Parkinson was unavailable for four-day cricket due to a combination of England duty and an ankle injury.
The availability of Liam Livingstone and Saqib Mahmood was also curtailed significantly due to England duty.
Vilas said: “If we have guys back next year, great. If we don’t, that’s great too because it means Livvy, Saqqy and Parky are playing for England, which is what we want.
“This year was difficult with the bubbles and guys having to be away, but there should be more flexibility with availability next year if they are in squads but not playing.”
Vilas and co were hurt by Sunday’s Blast defeat against Notts, one which leaves Lancashire still searching for their second T20 title.
However, they reached Finals Day with disruption and without the power of Australian overseas duo James Faulkner and Glenn Maxwell.
While they are not the only county to suffer that fate, Notts for example fielded Dan Christian and Imad Wasim for large parts of Vitality Blast.
“Maxi and Jimmy would have been part of our plans had this pandemic not hit,” added Vilas.
“We did miss them, but they were with us in terms of what they left behind last year - their efforts and how we need to play our T20 cricket. They definitely left a mark on us, and we channelled the energy they brought.
“They will hopefully be back next year, which might make a difference.
“But we have a young squad, and there are lots of positives. We are definitely looking forward to next year and can hopefully go two steps further.
“We’ll have a nice break now and get ready for pre-season again. The guys are definitely hungry.”
Memberships for Vitality Blast 2021 are now on sale from £35, allowing access to all Lancashire Lightning home games next season, including the Game of Roses fixture against Yorkshire Vikings.