A ninth LV= County Championship win of the season against Leicestershire at Emirates Old Trafford, starting Wednesday, will see Lancashire return to Division One at the first time of asking.
Promotion can be sealed this week, as can the Division Two title, with victory over the league’s bottom side, who have yet to win a match this season.
Skipper Glen Chapple is missing from the squad after failing to recover from the injury he sustained at Southport. New signing Kyle Jarvis is included in the squad for the first time while wicketkeeper Alex Davies also comes in to the squad.
Squad: Paul Horton (capt), Andrea Agathangelou, Alex Davies (wkt), Kyle Hogg, Kyle Jarvis, Simon Katich, Simon Kerrigan, Oliver Newby, Ashwell Prince, Luke Procter, Luis Reece, Tom Smith.
Lancashire need 18 points to go up. If they do claim the 16 for the win this week, they will almost certainly pick up the other two in bonus points. It would then be a case of mission accomplished.
But, with three matches left to play, including this week’s clash with the Foxes, Lancashire are not content with just going up. They want to do it in style.
Glen Chapple and Peter Moores have set their players a couple more aims. They want to go up as unbeaten champions. The champions part of that will also be achieved this week should the Red Rose pick up 23 points.
The two points totals, 18 and 23, are assuming Northamptonshire and Essex pick up maximum points for the rest of the season. It could transpire later in the week that Lancashire do not need the 18 points because Essex are playing. With Northants having a week off, they will need 23 to seal the title this week.
“We can do it at home, but we have a couple of targets left,” said coach Moores. “To stay unbeaten throughout the year would be great - and to go up as champions.
“If promotion happens in the next game, then great. But we just have to carry on winning games of cricket. We also have a lot of players working hard to move themselves forward as well as the team, and that is a really healthy position for us to have.
“We have dropped one point in two Championship games, which has put us in a really good position.
“To win a trophy, you need three bowlers to take around 50 wickets at a good rate and four guys to be averaging above 40 with the bat. We have got that this year.
“We had a tough year last year. We pride ourselves on how we have bowled over the last few years, apart from last year. But this year, the bowlers have really stepped up. Kyle Hogg and Glen have been outstanding as an opening partnership, backed up by Simon Kerrigan.”
Only four times have a team gone through a 16-match season unbeaten since the introduction of two divisions in 2000.
Warwickshire have done it twice, once in each division, Durham have done it once in Division One and Yorkshire in last season’s Division Two campaign, although they did not go up as champions.
Should Lancashire win their remaining three matches against Leicestershire, Gloucestershire at Bristol and Kent at Canterbury, they would become the first team in either division to win eleven out of 16 fixtures.
Australian overseas batsman Simon Katich will play his last game of the season this week because he is heading off to India to captain the Perth Scorchers in the Champions League t20 competition.
The left-hander has been in exceptional form this summer, particularly in the Championship and in Twenty20 as well. He has scored 1,041 Championship runs from eleven matches, including one double hundred, three hundreds and five fifties.
And both Moores and Chapple have paid tribute to the exceptional 38-year-old.
Moores said: “He has had a great input for us this season, and to get a player of his quality for almost the whole campaign has been great. To have players like him and Ashwell is important in the development of our own players.
“I would like to keep him until the end of the season, but we all understand. He is captain of Perth, so we understand him wanting to go.”
And Chapple added: “I am not sure you can replace somebody who has played as well as Kat has played for us. But we are a good team without him.
“He is one of the best in the world. With what he has done this year, he has probably surprised even the people who knew who good he was. He has one more game for us. Hopefully, he will go out in style and there will be nothing to worry about after that.”
Photo (c) Simon Kerrigan