The funniest, but also most revealing, moment of Lancashire’s pre-season media day at Old Trafford came when the coach Peter Moores was asked about the wicketkeeping situation at the county.
Luke Sutton’s departure has cleared the way for the gifted Gareth Cross to have an extended run in all forms of the game – but who exactly is the 26-year-old’s deputy?
“Heggy,” said Moores with a grin, referring to the long-serving former Lancashire gloveman who was hovering around the pavilion in his new role in the marketing department, having retired at the end of the 2005 season.
At a spritely 43, and therefore only five years younger than Moores himself – another former keeper who has kept himself in good shape – Warren Hegg still looks perfectly capable of doing a job. But Moores remains confident that Lancashire will get through the season without having to scramble for Hegg, or employ a second team wicketkeeper – provided Cross avoids injury.
“We haven’t got a second team keeper,” he admitted. “It’s not been a main priority for us with the financial situation. If Crossy got injured there are quite a lot of keepers out there.”
Like the captain Glen Chapple and cricket director Mike Watkinson, with whom he shared the top table, Moores is remaining upbeat despite the budgetary restraints caused by the ongoing uncertainty over the redevelopment at Old Trafford – and refusing to use them as an excuse.
“For us, I don’t think it should be a distraction,” he said. “We all know about it, obviously, and through Mike we’ve got a good link to exactly what’s going on. But we can’t use it an excuse.
“Through the development of the club we haven’t signed the players we might normally have signed, but that creates opportunities and challenges for everybody. From the outside expectations will be different, but internally our expectations should be the same.
“We’ve finished fourth two years in a row Championship-wise, but last year was a much better fourth because if we’d beaten Somerset in our next to last game, we’d still have been in the running with Notts when we played them in the last game.
“Our staff’s got smaller, but in some ways it’s more competitive, so me and Glen have some really difficult decisions to make.”
There will be the biggest clue yet to the way Moores and Chapple are planning to reshape the side for the Championship opener against Sussex in Liverpool when they play a three-day game against Oxford University, starting in the Parks this weekend.
Other than the fact that Chapple will definitely make his first appearance of the year, they were keeping cards close to chests at the media day.
As Moores said, there is real competition for places in some areas of the team. Simon Kerrigan and Stephen Parry seem likely to miss out to Gary Keedy in early-season, assuming Lancs only play one spinner, and Kyle Hogg, Steven Cheetham and the fit-again Oliver Newby are all battling to provide seam bowling support to Chapple and Sajid Mahmood – even before Farveez Maharoof arrives from Sri Lanka.
Stephen Moore’s recovery from major shoulder surgery, which he confirmed with a half century for the MCC in Abu Dhabi, adds much-needed experience to a batting line-up that also seems certain to include Paul Horton, Mark Chilton and Steven Croft.
But assuming Tom Smith joins Cross and Croft in a strong-looking lower middle order at five, six and seven, there is still one vacancy in the top three which could be filled by Karl Brown, Luke Procter or most intriguingly Andrea Agathangelou, the Rustenburg-born Cyprus passport-holder who has joined the staff after impressing last summer in league cricket with Rishton and in the second team at Lancashire.