George Balderson sprinkled a bit of magic on Lancashire’s pursuit of silverware in 2022. Those present at Chelmsford for the short and sharp Championship match against Essex in late September will have seen the all-rounder claim a superb 5-14 with his skilful seamers as the Red Rose successfully defended a target of 98.
It was a haul including a hat-trick, his victims being Sir Alastair Cook, Dan Lawrence and Matt Critchley.
Yes, it was a bowler-friendly pitch, and the victory inside two days ultimately didn’t mean anything in terms of the title race as Surrey beat Yorkshire at the Oval the following day. But what a performance it was from the highly-talented 22-year-old.
And he followed that up with a superb 97 from number seven in the order during the final week win against Surrey at Emirates Old Trafford, his best batting performance in 11 Championship appearances throughout the summer.
A month or so earlier, the Cheadle Hulme-born star had also hit a maiden first-team century - a superb 106 not out in a One-Day Cup defeat against champions to be Kent at Canterbury.
Added to his near dozen Championship appearances, he also played seven times in the One-Day Cup, though he missed the final defeat against Kent at Trent Bridge.
The former England Under 19s captain didn’t play at all in the Blast, a format he is yet to debut in. No doubt that is a short-term goal for a versatile cricketer who has opened the batting and batted in the middle order during his first-team career as well as performing regularly when called upon with the ball.
Balderson - he bats left-handed and bowls right - captained the Under 19s through 2019 and into the 50-over World Cup in early 2020 when they beat Sri Lanka in the Plate final. That basically meant England were the best of the teams who failed to reach the quarter-finals.
Balderson was promoted to open the batting in Lancashire’s Championship team in late 2021 following an injury to Keaton Jennings, and he hit two half-centuries in September, including 65 in the Bob Willis Trophy final defeat against Warwickshire at Lord’s.
Balderson, who plays his league cricket for Hyde having started at Cheadle Hulme, played age-group cricket for Cheshire before progressing through to second-team cricket with the Red Rose.
He signed his first professional contract at Old Trafford in 2018 and extended it for another three seasons in early 2022.
Balderson helped Lancashire win the Second XI T20 title in 2018, playing both games on Finals Day at Arundel. He has also captained the North in the ECB Super 4s, a competition for the most talented young players in the country.