In the lead up to the 2016 domestic season, ecb.co.uk is running a series of features with all 18 first-class counties. Lancashire all-rounder Tom Smith reflects on a memorable promotion campaign, the breed of youngsters coming through, and an off-season highlighted by a new arrival.
Ending their 17-year wait for silverware was a special moment for Lancashire in 2015, but the icing on the cake was winning promotion at the first time of asking according to all-rounder Tom Smith.
After enduring relegation heartbreak in 2014, Ashley Giles’ men bounced back emphatically, winning the NatWest T20 Blast with a 13-run victory over Northants Steelbacks before earning Specsavers County Championship promotion.
Although the 29-year-old missed the majority of the season with a back injury, Smith insisted that their promotion tilt was always their primary goal going into last year.
“Obviously that was our main aim going into the season,” Smith told ecb.co.uk.
“It was great to win a one-day cup and an added bonus for us, but we set out to get back into Division One and we did that so we were pleased.
“There are some tough teams in Division One but with our training down in Dubai and some up-and-coming youngsters in the squad, we’re confident on our chances of staying up.”
One man who played a significant role in their second-placed finish in Division Two was South African batsman Ashwell Prince, smashing 1,478 runs at 67.18 in his final season before retirement.
The 38-year-old was pivotal in the Lightning’s Blast triumph, sharing a stand of 77 with youngster Alex Davies which set the platform for their win, and Smith admits that it will be tough to fill the void left by Prince.
“Well it’s a big loss, not just from a playing point of view but his experience and influence off the field will be tough,” Smith added.
“His runs helped us in a big way during our promotion and we’ve got to find our own ‘Ashwell Prince’. His words of wisdom rubbed off on a lot of our young players and we hope they can continue their growth in his absence.
“We’ve played quite a young side in the one-day competitions and they played well but losing someone like Ashwell was huge and we’re doing our best to fill that void and with our younger players, we look to take that into the new season.”
Youth proved to provide the backbone for their first piece of silverware since 1999, as standout performances from Davies saw him win a place in the PCA Team of the Year, and a new deal at Lancashire.
The Red Rose also rewarded promising leg-spinner Matthew Parkinson and batsman Haseeb Hameed new deals and Smith believes the Emirates Old Trafford faithful have a lot to look forward to in the future.
“It’s tough to single out just one because we saw a lot of them coming into the senior side with great potential,” he said.
“Obviously you’ve got Saqib (Mahmood) who was with the U19s this summer. We’ve also got Haseeb who opened the batting in the latter stages of the season and played well, so he has a bright future.
“Alex Davies was huge for us in the one-day competitions and he continues to play well and he’s just 21. Our squad for the T20 was really young but they all chipped in and guided us to the cup win so there’s a lot of them coming through at the club.”
Despite watching most of the season on the sidelines, Smith took many positives from his time away from the field, welcoming a baby boy, a speedy recovery from injury and encouraging displays during pre-season, which he hopes will help Lancashire keep their Division One status this summer.
“I was gutted to get injured and miss the majority of the season but this is sport and it happens,” Smith said.
“I’m recovering well from the injury. The boys did a great job in my absence. It’s been a nice off-season for me.
“We want to cement our place in Division One. We’ve been a bit of a yo-yo club in recent years but we know we’re capable of competing.
“Teams like Sussex and Yorkshire look stronger but we played Yorkshire in Dubai recently and if I’m honest there wasn’t too much between us and them we can definitely hold our own.”
— Tom smith (@Tcp24) March 27, 2016