Updated: Saturday, 21st July 2018 @ 8:06am

'The best batting we've had for some time': Homegrown Lancashire bubbling up nicely for title tilt, says Chapple

'The best batting we've had for some time': Homegrown Lancashire bubbling up nicely for title tilt, says Chapple

| By Tom Harle

The key ingredients to Glen Chapple’s Lancashire hotpot are locally sourced.

The Red Rose embark on a County Championship campaign with the best chance of wearing the summer’s crown since their last triumph in 2011.

Chapple, now head coach after 25 years of distinguished service to the county, has his heart set on building a team chock full of northern soul.

“It’s a priority that we produce players from Lancashire and the North West,” said Chapple, whose side open against Nottinghamshire on Friday at Emirates Old Trafford.

“We make sure the players we bring in from elsewhere have the right kind of influence on homegrown players and they gel together to form a strong team.

“Certainly we like to have upwards of seven players who have come through the Lancashire pathway and are from the north of England in our team at any one time.

“We’ve just appointed Liam Livingstone as captain and him having come through our ranks was a factor in that.”

Among those set to star this season are Bolton’s Haseeb Hameed, whose Boycott-esque approach to batting earned him an England debut in 2016.

Rochdale-reared Saqib Mahmood loves nothing better than bowling 90 mile-an-hour rockets - he’s got England coaches head over heels.

Steven Croft, Blackpool born, has a point to prove, stripped of the captaincy in his testimonial year at the club after a disappointing 2017.

But it’s Darwen lad Alex Davies, an exciting top-order batsman, who keeps bums off seats in the pavilion and has given Chapple a selection conundrum.

Davies, the first Lancashire wicketkeeper to clock up 1,000 runs in a season, faces losing his opener spot with the arrival of another England hopeful.

Keaton Jennings, the latest South African to gain England Test honours, arrived in the winter to strengthen a formidable batting lineup.

“I think most people would agree it’s the best batting we’ve had for some time,” said Chapple.

“The order has been sorted out and I’m excited.

“I don’t think batting down the order is a priority for Alex, he’s proven that he can open. But its shows he wants to do whatever he can for the team.”

County cricket is a living, breathing idiosyncrasy and the structure of its top division reflects that: of the eight teams, two get relegated.

That’s like five teams dropping out of the Premier League each season.

On the face of it, Hampshire have the strongest squad. Any county that can squeeze stints out of South African world-beaters Hashim Amla and Dale Steyn have a fighting chance.

A second-placed finish last season allows a tinge of optimism to enter Chapple’s voice; unusual for a man who keeps his cards tight to his chest.

“All of our current team have got pedigree, whereas in the last few years we’ve lacked that,” he said.

“We’ve always known we’ve got talented cricketers but now we’ve got a season of challenging under our belts.

“In those terms, I think people will expect us to be there or thereabouts.

“Assuming you’ve got a skilful squad is nowhere near enough - we’ve got to work very hard.”

Image courtesy of Lancashire Cricket TV via YouTube, with thanks.