Lancashire are going all out to gain LV= County Championship promotion as Division Two champions ahead of tomorrow's table-topping clash with leaders Northamptonshire at Emirates Old Trafford.
Lancashire squad: Glen Chapple (capt), Andrea Agathangelou, Steven Croft, Gareth Cross (wk), Kyle Hogg, Simon Katich, Simon Kerrigan, Stephen Parry, Ashwell Prince, Luke Procter, Luis Reece, Tom Smith, Wayne White.
Northants squad: Kyle Coetzer, Matthew Spriegel, David Sales, Alex Wakely (capt), Rob Keogh, Andrew Hall, James Middlebrook, David Willey, Steven Crook, David Murphy (wkt), Lee Daggett, Graeme White.
The Red Rose county are in pole position to at least clinch second place in Division Two given they are 11 points clear of third placed Gloucestershire with a game in hand having only played seven times. But Glen Chapple’s side are intent on doing it in style.
They also have a game in hand on Northants, but must bridge a 33-point gap between now and the end of the season to have any chance of lifting the silverware.
Northants, Lancashire and Division One title contenders Sussex are the only unbeaten teams in the country.
This is actually the first of back-to-back fixtures against Northants, with the second only starting at Wantage Road on July 8 because of the start of Twenty20 next week.
Lancashire go into this clash in high spirits. Not only have they won their last four matches in all competitions, but they bowled Essex out for just 20 to complete a three-day win at Chelmsford last Friday, their third success in this summer’s Championship.
And Australian overseas star Simon Katich, who had scored his maiden Red Rose century, an excellent 122, earlier in the game, said: “That was an amazing finish to a game. Not many of us have experienced 14 overs of cricket like that in our careers.
“I've seen teams get rolled on day four of a game when the wicket's deteriorating and they're chasing a score. But not like that on day three with the way the game was panning out. The sun was out. It was a new ball wicket. There was no doubt that there was something on offer with the new ball.
“To go down in history, that's amazing. You don't ever start a game thinking that's going to happen, but it's nice to think we've been a part of something special. Hopefully we can carry it on into Northants.
“We knew this little period of cricket before Twenty20 was going to be crucial because Northants were starting to skip away from everyone. But we've got them to play now and then again during Twenty20. They're two massive games for us to catch them and try and get in front of them. There's no doubt that we want to knock them off top spot. It's up to us to do the work now.”
It was quite ironic that Katich should score his maiden ton against Essex because, just a couple of days earlier, the 37-year-old former Test star had revealed his frustration at not having already posted that milestone.
He had scores of 84, 93, 65 and 96 under his belt beforehand, but he was desperate to go that extra mile.
Katich heads into this match having been honoured with his County Cap from the club earlier this week, and he added: “It was nice that getting my first hundred happened, but even better that it happened in those circumstances that we had a really good win as well. That's what it's all about, getting wins.”
Northants have made an excellent start to the Championship campaign having won four and drawn four of their eight matches. But they will be without overseas fast bowler Trent Copeland who has returned to Australia having taken 36 wickets in seven outings.
Photo (c) Simon Pendrigh