Croft hails united Lancashire
Similarities between Lancashire and Manchester United in recent years have been limited to a postcode.
United’s phenomenal success on the football pitch over the last two decades has contrasted sharply with their neighbours’ fruitless search for the LV= County Championship stretching back to 1934.
That spell finally came to an end in thrillingly cathartic fashion this summer as Lancashire wrapped up the title following 77 painfully barren years.
They did so, according to Lancashire vice-captain Steven Croft, demonstrating the sort of trait that has become a hallmark of Sir Alex Ferguson’s sides.
“United have that knack of scoring late on, that never-say-die attitude,” Croft told ecb.co.uk.
“That’s not an accident - it comes from a great team spirit - and the work ethic and spirit of our side is one of our strengths.
“There were five or six games this season that could have gone either way and we came out on top in most of those. That shows the spirit we have.”
Croft cites both wins over Yorkshire as evidence: Lancashire chased 121 in 15 overs to sneak home at Liverpool in May and triumphed by just 23 runs in an equally tense encounter at Headingley Carnegie two months later.
Lancashire’s failure by two wickets to force victory over Warwickshire at Aigburth was the exception rather than the norm.
They kept their title hopes alive by beating Hampshire with four minutes to spare in their penultimate game, and their championship-clinching win over Somerset was not sealed until deep into the final session of the season.
As Croft stresses, at no point this summer did playing “feel like a job”, a comment that should be as much a source of pleasure for coach Peter Moores as capturing the domestic game’s biggest prize.
“It felt like I was just going out to play with my mates,” Croft added, echoing the comments made by team-mate Karl Brown in the immediate aftermath of Lancashire’s title triumph at Taunton.
“A lot of us played together in second XI cricket, and 90% of the team are local players, so it’s really nice to come up through the ranks and play with each other.
“We didn’t have to get geed up for anything this year; we went out there and enjoyed ourselves.
“We weren’t scared of failing; we were all behind each other. If you do your best and lose a game, then there’s nothing you can do about it.”
If Lancashire defied expectations from both inside and outside of Old Trafford this year, they will not dismissed so lightly next year.
However, Croft, who hit the winning runs at Taunton, believes they will be in “even better shape” come April - by dint of what their achievements this year.
“There wasn’t much pressure on us this year," he revealed. "People were saying we’d be relegated, and someone said it was the worst Lancashire team ever.
“But I think there will be less pressure next year as the lads have had an extra year behind them.
“It will give us confidence, especially the younger members of the side - they’ve won a championship quite early in their careers.
“The club was strapped for cash this year and there were plenty of off-field problems with the ground redevelopment. But we have made massive strides forward and there’s a great buzz around the ground now.
“Seventy-seven years is a long time to wait and you never know when the next one will be coming. Hopefully this is a platform to build on, especially as this side could stay together for the next few years.”