The last County Championship fixture of the season at Taunton is not the only significant match for Lancashire cricket this week. On Monday September 12, when Glen Chapple’s team begin their game against Somerset, the county’s Second XI face Nottinghamshire in Liverpool in the Trophy final.
Reaching the final for the third consecutive summer is an impressive achievement for Lancashire, given the well-publicised lack of depth in their first team squad as a result of the cost of redeveloping Old Trafford. Not only have the local lads done the county proud at senior level, but a new crop of youngsters have flourished in the second team, and are now one win away from a first Trophy success since 1990.
“It’s very exciting on two levels,” said Gary Yates, the member of Peter Moores’s coaching staff with specific responsibility for the seconds. “The group of lads around their mid-20s have waited a while for the chance to regroup in the 1st XI, and this year they have done terrifically well.
“But it’s also been an excellent season for us in second team cricket. This is the third year on the run we’ve reached the one-day final, and that shows we must be doing things well, and creating some focus on winning habits.”
Lancashire have lost in each of the last two finals, going down to Essex in Chelmsford last year and in 2009 to Yorkshire in Scarborough – with a team that included Tom Smith, Karl Brown, Steven Croft, Gareth Cross, Luke Procter and Simon Kerrigan, all of whom have made significant contributions to the unexpected tilt at the County Championship this season.
Now they have home advantage against a Notts team who finished below them in the qualifying stages, having secured their place in the final with knock-out wins against Durham and Somerset.
Steven Cheetham set up the quarter-final victory over Durham at Lytham with five wickets, and his new ball partnership with Oliver Newby has been effective throughout the campaign. Lancashire also have younger seamers coming through, notably Gavin Griffiths, who has already played for England under-19s.
But Yates says it is the spinners who have held the key to Lancashire’s success. Stephen Parry has captained the team, and Kerrigan has also made key contributions – although he is likely to be otherwise engaged in Taunton this week – and Arron Lilley, a 20-year-old off-spinner from the same east Manchester area as Parry, returned impressive figures in the semi-final at Somerset.
The batting has been headed up by Andrea Agathangelou with Louis Bentley and Luis Reece chipping in, and Jordan Clark played the match-winning innings in that semi-final. Parry is a genuine all-rounder, and Newby has demonstrated previously well-hidden batting skills to earn a place in the lower middle order.
After starting the season without a reserve wicketkeeper on the staff, Lancashire have taken special pleasure in the development of Darwen’s Alex Davies, who became the county’s youngest-ever one-day player when he faced the Unicorns in a Clydesdale Bank 40 game at Colwyn Bay the day before his 17th birthday. The record was previously held by a chap called Andrew Flintoff.