Steven Croft column: Cup competition provides a chance to shine

Keith Barker bowls to Lancashire's Keaton Jennings at Stanley Park on Friday
Keith Barker bowls to Lancashire's Keaton Jennings at Stanley Park on Friday

With all the talk of new competitions and the focus on Twenty20 there was a bit of a fear that the 50-over cup was being downgraded a bit.

But with a few games still to go I think it’s been good this year.

It was great to see more than 14,000 at Trent Bridge as Nottinghamshire held a family day for their game against Warwickshire.

Now the 50-over stuff is in a block it’s also great for preparation.

You’ve got that extra time to just focus on one competition rather than dipping in and out of different ones. 
The standard of cricket has been high.

If you look at both groups everyone seems to be beating everyone, which we’ve found as we’ve come out on the wrong side of a few tight games.

There’s no team that are thumping others game after game.

I think it’s been a good advert for one-day county cricket.

As well as playing at the traditional big county grounds it does give us a chance to go and play at some club grounds as well.

The one that was always going to stand out for me was obviously going back home to Blackpool last Friday.

It was a huge shame for everyone involved though, as we only got eight overs in due to the wet weather.

A lot of time and effort goes into those games and it takes a lot for those games to happen for a club like Blackpool.

There are dozens of volunteers working for months on end to get it right.

The ground at Stanley Park was looking really good and we had a good start to the game on what looked like a nice pitch.

It was just typical that the one day of bad weather in probably 15 or 16 days seemed to arrive then.

Hopefully Lancashire will see the positives from it, the state of the wicket and the size of the crowd, and next year we can go back there again.

It’s really good to play at these places.

It is some people’s first taste of watching county cricket and it’s somewhere different for us to play as well. It’s nice seeing other parts of the country and playing in different environments.

Keaton Jennings had got us up and running pretty quickly in that game at Blackpool and his excellent form since joining us means he is back with England this week for the second Test against Pakistan at Headingley.

He’s had a great start to the season and he’ll certainly be missed in the Lancashire side.

It’s England’s gain obviously and they’ve got a man who is in real form.

And it’s a good advert for county cricket that England are picking those players in form, even if he has already been part of their set-up 
before.

It is good to know as a player that England are taking into consideration county form as well.

There are some call-ups like Jos Buttler where he’s not playing a lot of four-day cricket but has the skill and the talent to succeed at that level.

Keaton, though, has moved counties, joining us from Durham, and gone about his business really well. It’s the first time I’ve played with him this year and he’s a very professional character and gives himself the best chance.

It looks like his absence might give Haseeb Hameed another chance at the top of the order for us.

He’s been left out of the first XI in recent weeks but has done tremendously well. It’s exactly what you want to see from players dropping out of the side.

He hadn’t scored the runs he wanted to at the start of the summer but has gone away and got plenty for the seconds.

It’s great for the team when players do that because it pushes players who are in the side.

We say at the start of every year there are going to be disappointed players around but you never know what is around the corner.

There will be injuries, international call-ups and you can soon be a few players down.

Lancashire have got the squad to cope with that though, even if it can be a tough environment when players aren’t away.

You have to stay as professional though and Has has done exactly that.

The side will chop and change throughout the year but we all know it’s about looking at the bigger picture as we compete on three fronts this season.