Promoted Lancs already looking forwards
Leicestershire 329 (Raine 72, O'Brien 63) drew with Lancashire 453 for 7 dec (Horton 156, Katich 56, Reece 50)
Lancashire may not have achieved promotion in the style they would have liked, but the hour-long wait to confirm their success completes a remarkable turnaround of fortunes. Relegated as reigning champions just a year ago, their return to Division One was confirmed after third-placed Essex were unable to secure victory against Kent at Canterbury.
By the time news filtered through, there were precious few people left at Old Trafford to mark the event, after Lancashire's final home match meandered to a draw on the final day. The players, of course, enjoyed their own celebration in the dressing room but the rest of the refurbished ground was empty other than a few members of the media writing up in the press box and the odd construction worker disassembling the temporary stands used for the Ashes Test and recent one-day international.
Resuming the final morning trailing by 393 runs on 60 for 3, Leicestershire comfortably batted out the day and avoided a seventh successive defeat mainly thanks to a 69-run seventh-wicket stand between Ben Raine, who was celebrating his 22nd birthday, and Tom Wells. Raine top-scored with a career-best 72, while Wells also made his best first-class score of 43, and both sides shook hands on a draw after Leicestershire were dismissed for 329.
It was a low-key end to Lancashire's season at Old Trafford and, although they may finish the summer with silverware - Lancashire need only 12 points from their final two matches to secure the Division Two title - thoughts will inevitably turn to next year and whether the team can adapt to Division One cricket better than 12 months ago?
They certainly have a bigger playing pool, with youngsters like Luis Reece and Andrea Agathangelou breaking through this summer to keep Steven Croft and Karl Brown, the two players at the crease when Lancashire claimed the championship at Taunton in 2011, out of the Championship side. They will also be able to call upon the experience of Ashwell Prince, the former South Africa Test batsman, who fulfils the final year of his two-year deal as a Kolpak player next summer.
Reece's emergence as an opening partner for Paul Horton has provided the foundation for much of Lancashire's success this summer. In six innings opening together, they have recorded three century partnerships - in stark contrast to last summer when Lancashire had to wait until the final game of the summer for their first century opening stand - and should provide greater stability going into next season.
Lancashire would also like to add Simon Katich, the 38-year-old former Australia batsman, to their squad for next season as an overseas player, after he contributed 1,097 Championship runs to their promotion push, including four hundreds and six half-centuries, at an average of 73.13. He will play no further part in their season as he is due to fly out to India this weekend to captain Perth Scorchers in the Champions League and discussions about next summer are expected to begin after the end of that tournament.
Should Katich decide against another gruelling six months in county cricket, Lancashire have confirmed they would look to recruit another quality overseas batsman having already made the exciting signing of Kyle Jarvis, the 24-year-old former Zimbabwe Test bowler, on a three-year contract as a Kolpak player to strengthen their bowling resources. Jarvis claimed 30 wickets in eight Tests and has certainly looked the part during lunch-time bowling sessions at Old Trafford, bowling at a good pace and accuracy, but has yet to be tested in a first-team fixture.
Jarvis' pace will certainly add something to Lancashire's attack, which has lacked a quick bowler for some years, and will ease the workload on Glen Chapple, their 39-year-old captain. They are well stocked in the spin department, with Simon Kerrigan having already proven himself in Division One. Stephen Parry, another left-arm spinner, should strengthen that department, having missed most of this season with a broken arm, while Arron Lilley, a 22-year-old offspinner, also made his Championship debut this summer.
Do Lancashire have enough strength in depth to challenge for the title, as Yorkshire have done, in the season after going up? Much will depend on Lancashire's recruitment policies during the winter. Their Roses rivals secures Liam Plunkett and Jack Brooks a year ago, which has helped them mount a title challenge.
Certainly Katich is confident. "Having played Yorkshire last year [with Hampshire], they've brought in Plunkett and Brooks and, apart from that, their team is pretty similar," he said. "The batting line-up is almost the same, apart from one or two young kids. They played some good cricket last year, Jason Gillespie is a good coach and they've probably built on that confidence and had another good year, so there's no reason why that couldn't also happen here."