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Staying unbeaten the aim for Lancashire

Paul Horton, who will lead Lancashire this week, has outlined their aim to finish an impressive season in the LV= County Championship with a flourish.

The Red Rose county can secure an immediate return to the top-flight this week when they welcome rock-bottom Leicestershire to Emirates Old Trafford.

A haul of 18 points will guarantee Lancashire promotion and they can secure the Division Two title should they manage a 23-point win.

However, there is no danger of Peter Moores’ men, who have yet to lose a championship fixture this summer, easing up as they close in on their goal.

Horton, who is filling in as captain for the injured Glen Chapple, told ecb.co.uk: “We’ve been happy with our four-day cricket and we want three wins (out of three) to finish with a bang.

“We haven’t lost a first-class game this season so hopefully we can finish strong, go undefeated and win Division Two.”

Lancashire have included new signing Kyle Jarvis, the former Zimbabwe seamer, in their squad alongside Alex Davies, who will keep wicket. Simon Katich will make his last appearance of the campaign before playing in the Champions League T20 for Perth Scorchers.

Horton rejects the notion that Lancashire, relegated from Division One last summer 12 months after finishing 2011 as champions, may feel the pressure as the season approaches its climax.

“No, not really. (There is) no more pressure than there has been all throughout the year,” he added.

“Obviously we were expected to go up, after winning it in 2011, but we still had to perform and right the wrongs of last year.

“So we’ve tried to do that and with three games to go we’re very happy with our position.”

Having missed a large chunk of the season with an injured right index finger, Horton is also targeting a strong finish of his own.

He struck a second-innings hundred in last week’s victory over Hampshire and is eager to prosper again before the campaign comes to an end.

“I haven’t played as much cricket this year so with six innings to go I’m looking for a couple of hundreds,” explained the 30-year-old opener.

Leicestershire are 44 points adrift of nearest rivals Kent and have yet to win a four-day game in 2013.

The visitors to Emirates Old Trafford welcome back Niall O’Brien and Rob Taylor from international duty plus have Nathan Buck available after injury, but are without Matthew Hoggard, Shiv Thakor, Josh Cobb, Jigar Naik, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Robbie Williams and Anthony Ireland.

Whether Lancashire require 19 points against the Foxes to seal promotion will depend on events at Canterbury, where Essex will aim to make the most of their game in hand on second-placed Northamptonshire.

Essex currently trail Northants by 29 points but know victory over Kent, who have named an unchanged squad, would apply significant pressure to their promotion rivals.

They are boosted by the return of opener Gautam Gambhir, who is available again after returning home to India at the beginning of the month due to a family bereavement, and Sajid Mahmood to their squad.

Worcestershire and Hampshire have little more than pride to play for in their meeting at New Road. Hampshire welcome back James Vince and Danny Briggs, who were rested in last week’s draw versus Northants. Neil McKenzie and Ruel Brathwaite drop out of a squad featuring Chris Wood and Sean Terry, who were not involved against Northants.

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