Winter graft encourages Moores
Lancashire head coach Peter Moores is confident a winter of focused and dedicated work will ensure last season’s LV= County Championship triumph is no flash in the pan.
The Red Rose ended a 77-year wait to claim English cricket’s most coveted prize outright with a dramatic final evening run-chase to overcome Somerset, while favourites Warwickshire laboured in the face of Hampshire resistance at the Rose Bowl.
A year ago Moores informed a sceptical press contingent that his youthful, largely homegrown, squad could overcome the weight of history and expectation to challenge for honours.
Today, flanked by a famous piece of silverware, he was preaching to the converted at Lancashire’s pre-season media day.
“I think as a squad we’ve moved forward,” said Moores. “You don’t really know until you start playing, but I was really impressed with our workrate and how we worked in the winter.
“You can’t help but compare yourself a little bit with other people that you’re working with on the other sides and we look like we’re going to be in pretty good shape come the start of the season.”
A chance for early assessment came during last month’s tour of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, culminating in a battling six-wicket win over MCC in the season’s traditional curtain raiser.
As the championship season gets underway this week, Lancashire will enjoy some final preparation against Cambridge MCCU before opening versus Sussex at Aigburth next Thursday - a repeat of their first fixture last year.
“The four-dayer was good because it was competitive,” Moores said. “We won in the end, but actually it was a bit closer than maybe the scores suggest. We had to scrap very hard after the first innings so it was good practice.
“We’ll have to play well in this next week, which is quite important because we actually get out and play in England on grass.”
Captain Glen Chapple was a talismanic presence last term, weighing in with his customary haul of wickets and timely contributions with the bat.
Few would have begrudged the 38-year-old departing into triumphant retirement after glory was secured at Taunton, but he insists he did not have to think twice about embarking on a 20th season with the Red Rose.
“If you’re lucky enough to do a job that you enjoy doing and if you’re still capable of doing it you’re going to carry on,” he said. “I still really enjoy playing and we’ve got things to achieve, which I’m excited about.
“The whole campaign last year was a terrific experience for us. Winning so many games in that season was a great achievement.
“So whatever happened it would have been a superb season. To get over the line gives you further belief in what you can achieve. We’ve got that belief now.
“With it being so close at the end, that was important as well. To win it under extreme pressure is really valuable to us.”
Number three Karl Brown, all-rounder Luke Procter and seamer Kyle Hogg all enjoyed breakthrough campaigns in 2011 and their homespun talents will be supplemented by South Africa batsman Ashwell Prince, following successful spells at Old Trafford in 2009 and 2010.
Chapple believes Prince will slot seamlessly into the tireless work ethic established under Moores, who agreed a fresh contract with Lancashire until 2014 in January.
“Ashwell’s played for us before, we loved having him and he worked hard,” said the skipper. “He’s a dedicated cricketer who’s got proven international class.”
Despite the presence of a top-class reinforcement and the understandable air of confidence running through the his group, Moores is under no illusions that Lancashire will face stern tests from all comers as they look to hold onto a prize that eluded them for so long.
“I think it will be strong, full stop,” he explained. “Durham will be strong again because they’ve got a strong batting line-up - how well they go in the seam department depends on who stays fit.
“Notts, I don’t quite know because they’ve changed a few things, but that often brings a new freshness to it. Warwickshire I expect to be competitive again.
“How Middlesex and Surrey do coming up I’ll be interested to know. I think Middlesex might be quite a competitive side actually, just working away with what they do. They played well last year.”