Lancashire all-rounder Steven Croft looks to regain Red Rose spot after contentious Blackpool win at Netherfield (From The Westmorland Gazette)
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Lancashire all-rounder Steven Croft looks to regain Red Rose spot after contentious Blackpool win at Netherfield
WITH football back on our TV screens and the final Test of the summer underway, people would be forgiven for thinking the cricket season is coming to a close.
But the English domestic game is only just reaching its business end and with plenty of silverware still up for grabs, Lancashire’s Steven Croft is eyeing success on several fronts.
The 28-year-old featured for Blackpool on Sunday as the Stanley Park outfit booked their place in the Readers Cup final against Leyland with a controversial win over Netherfield at Parkside Road.
Croft spearheaded the visitors’ reply with a top-score of 84, while a savage contribution from Red Rose colleague Liam Livingstone proved crucial as the Seasiders booked a date with destiny.
While admitting the decision to penalise the home side six runs for a slow over-rate was an unfortunate way to secure victory, the all-rounder was thrilled his side squeezed home.
“It would be great to win a trophy with Blackpool and hopefully some silverware with Lancashire too,” he said.
“We can’t finish anywhere in the league so it’s good to make the final after some decent all-round contributions from the lads.
“From my point of view, it was a bit of my own game but a relatively patient knock. I just left Liam to it at the start and knew if I was around at the end we would have a decent chance.
“While I didn’t manage to see it through I had an impact. It wasn’t the nicest way to win a game or contribute towards the winning of a game but it’s a rule.
“It was tough but at all levels of cricket the officials are trying to stamp down on such things, I think we have lost a couple of games like that this summer, a first and second-team match.”
Croft – who was awarded his county cap in 2010 – was at the crease when Lancashire sealed their first outright county championship success for 77 years at Taunton two summers ago.
After re-writing history, fast-forward just 12 months and the Old Trafford club suffered a heart-wrenching relegation, although are odds on to secure an immediate return to the top-flight this time around.
Peter Moores’ side currently enjoy a 20-point lead over second-placed Northamptonshire with five games remaining, starting with today’s clash with Worcestershire at New Road.
But while a winners’ medal beckons, Croft has not featured in the longer form of the game since mid-June, despite a batting average of 40.22 from his seven outings.
Irrespective of his lack of involvement in four-day cricket recently, the right-hander insists securing a return to Division One remains an absolute priority over the next month.
“We’re definitely happy to be where we are in the county championship and comfortable with our season generally,” he added.
“I’m working hard to try and get myself back in the four-day side but regardless of that I hope we can finish well and get a few more wins which will see us go straight back up.
“We’re having a good run at the moment as a club and our main goal before the season started was promotion and we want to go up as champions.
“Last year was a tough year but as a squad we’ve learnt from a few mistakes and I think being out of the top division this year will put us in good stead for next season if we can secure promotion.”
Although he failed to make the final cut, Croft received international recognition last August after being called up to a provisional 30-man England squad ahead of the ICC World Twenty20.
And despite four-day cricket temporarily being on the backburner, Croft remains integral to Lancashire’s quest for glory in limited-overs cricket and has been an ever-present so far this year.
He continues to skipper the Red Rose when Glen Chapple is unavailable and was left stranded at the Ageus Bowl as Lancashire came agonisingly close to reaching T20 finals day earlier this month.
With qualification for the Yorkshire Bank 40 semi-finals still possible, Croft believes there could well be a further glistening addition to the Old Trafford trophy cabinet this summer.
“We were disappointed to miss out on finals day, it was a huge blow to go out in the quarter-finals the way we did,” he said.
“Away at Hampshire was probably the hardest draw and it was almost cruel for us to get so close and then lose by a single run.
“Even at the halfway stage there was massive belief we could better that massive total of more than 200 and it’s probably the highest score we’ll ever get without winning.
“And we’ve played some good cricket in the 40-over stuff as well. Hopefully we can make it through the group stages and to a Lords’ final as it’s been a few years since we’ve been there.”
While ECB selectors have not seen fit to ring Croft’s mobile of late, one Lancastrian who has been contacted recently is left-arm spinner Simon Kerrigan.
The uncapped 24-year-old received a call from National Selector Geoff Miller at the weekend and was called-up to the England squad for this week’s fifth and final Ashes Test at the Oval
Behind only Michael Hogan of Glamorgan, Kerrigan is the second-highest wicket-taker in Division Two with 47 at an average of 20.23, and Croft is full of praise for his county colleague.
“I’m delighted for him and he thoroughly deserves it,” he said.
“He has taken wickets consistently now for the last few years and this season especially he has learned to bowl on the first day and keep the runs down.
“In the past he would get a bit excited and want wickets but he knows now if he builds pressure on the first day he’ll get wickets through dots.
“He’s coming on leaps and bounds and it’s a great achievement for him.”
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