By Dominic Farrell
Opener Paul Horton is delighted Lancashire have set the record straight on last season’s failures after securing promotion back to Division One of the LV= County Championship at the first time of asking.
Lost time to rain prevented the Red Rose from pushing for victory on the final day of their Division Two encounter with Leicestershire today, but Essex’s similar frustrations with inclement weather at Canterbury meant Glen Chapple’s side are guaranteed of a top-two berth with two games remaining.
Following a lengthy spell on the sidelines with a dislocated finger that required surgery, Horton has hit a rich vein of form at the business end of the season - top-scoring with 156 this week on the back of 111 in the second innings of a dominant 122-run win over Hampshire at Southport last time out.
The 30-year-old insists there will be no let-up until Lancashire secure the 12 points they need to ensure progress as champions, but concedes there is genuine satisfaction within the ranks regarding the clinical nature in which eight wins and six draws have been amassed from 14 championship matches.
“It’s obviously what we set out to do at the start of the season,” he told ecb.co.uk. “Not only did we want to get promoted, we wanted to win the division, so it’s not a complete job done just yet.
“But it’s great to be guaranteed that we’re back in Division One and to have put right the wrongs from last season. To do it with two games to go is something we’re very proud of.”
Promotion caps three rollercoaster seasons for coach Peter Moores and his squad, after 2011’s unforgettable County Championship triumph was followed by an inauspicious title defence and relegation 12 months later.
With the nucleus of that squad still together for the 2013 campaign, Horton explained that the pre-season mantra was to rediscover the relentlessly competitive cricket that served the players so well in their finest hour.
“Obviously 2011 was a fantastic high; 2012 didn’t go well for us for a number of reasons,” he said. “We just tried to emulate what we did in 2011 – get back to basics and be successful.
“No one really doubted the quality in the squad. We knew if we could get on the park and perform we’d be okay.
“We wanted to prove a point and the only way we could do that was by performing the way we have this year.”
The manner in which Lancashire have dominated Division Two this season was not easy to foresee during the early weeks of the campaign.
Opening draws against Worcestershire and Kent were followed by a torrid two-and-a-half days against Glamorgan at Colwyn Bay, where Horton and Co battled gamely to stay in a match where they were shot out for 123 in the first innings.
Glamorgan were set a victory target of 154, only for Chapple and Simon Kerrigan to tear mercilessly through their order on the third evening and seal a sensational 14-run victory, recalling the dramatic finishes that peppered Lancashire’s 2011 work. It is hard to pinpoint a time when they have looked back since.
“The Glamorgan win was probably a key moment for us,” Horton said. “It was a game that Glamorgan deserved to win and probably should have won.
“For us to show the character and the strength to bowl them out when they only needed a small target was credit to us. It showed we could handle awkward situations and win when we didn’t deserve to.
“Then we really clicked into gear, played some good cricket and we definitely knew we could go through and carry on with some good wins.”
He added: “That was a turning point of the season right at the start. If that hadn’t gone our way then we would have had to look for a few answers. But in getting the win there we gained a bit of momentum early.”