In 2011 shrewd management and an impressive never-say-die spirit helped an unusually starless Lancashire side be far greater than the sum of its parts. Talismanic skipper Glen Chapple, Kyle Hogg, Sajid Mahmood and the odd cameo from James Anderson are a mighty fine seam quartet. This is backed up by old stager Gary Keedy and new hand Simon Kerrigan in the spin department. The acquisition of Ashwell Prince for the whole season (notwithstanding the possibility of a call-up to the South African squad touring England this summer) could prove crucial in the final reckoning.
Whilst the likes of Stephen Moore, Paul Horton, Karl Brown and Stephen Croft are dependable enough with the bat only the first two topped 1,000 Championship runs in 2011 (and then only by 13 and 40 runs respectively), so the Champions appear to lack heavy scorers. Perhaps more pertinent is that retaining the Championship is extremely difficult.
It will be interesting to see how Prince shapes up and the extent of Kerrigan's development as a potential England bowler, but it is the redoubtable Glen Chapple that has to take centre stage - he was inspirational as leader of the 2011 side and has taken 231 championship wickets at 21.16 in the last five seasons. If he can stay fit (and that is a big 'if') then a repeat of last season's triumph can not be ruled out.
Look out for
How a return to their Old Trafford home affects their chances. How many times will Lancashire be foiled by the notoriously poor Manchester weather or a benign pitch?
2nd - Will go close to retaining their crown, but will fall just a little bit short in the final reckoning.
2011 County Cricket Review: including Heroes of the Season, Best and Worst XIs, and a whole host of other nonsense
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