PREVIEW: Cambridge MCCU v Lancashire at Fenner's
The summer is here, folks!
The Lancashire squad's preparation is all but done.
Players have been training and playing either at home or abroad, while coaches have been planning.
Now, the Red Rose are ready for match action on home soil.
The vast majority of Lancashire's squad will be in action across three days at two venues, starting tomorrow.
A 'first team' will travel to Cambridge for an MCC Universities clash, while the other side, more of a second XI, will head to Taunton to take on a strong Somerset outfit.
Lancashire are building towards their County Championship opener against newly promoted Essex at Chelmsford next Friday when they will come up against England Test opener Alastair Cook and former Red Rose overseas fast bowler Neil Wagner.
Overseas all-rounder Ryan McLaren and former Test duo Shiv Chanderpaul are due to land in Manchester during the next few days, but South African Dane Vilas has arrived and should make his county debut.
Cambridge spinner Luke Chapman was their standout performer in a clash with Nottinghamshire earlier this week, with the debutant spinner taking 6-78 in the first innings.
Unfortunately for Cambridge, it could not prevent defeat. He will almost certainly feature again.
Somerset have yet to play a University fixture, so they are expected to field a strong team ahead of their first Championship match against Essex on Friday 14 April at Taunton.
The students of Cambridge Uni will play their second three-day county fixture in as many weeks having been beaten by Notts at Fenner's earlier this week.
Notts made 339, including 89 for ex-Lancashire man Steven Mullaney, before Cambridge were bowled out for 123.
Notts added a second-innings 207-2 declared, setting Cambridge 424 to win. The students were bowled out for 79. Stuart Broad featured for Peter Moores' men.
Somerset have been playing UK based friendlies for a little more than a week now against Glamorgan, Sussex and Worcestershire.
They finished second in last year's Championship, only missing out following a thrilling final week battle for the title between themselves, eventual champions Middlesex and Yorkshire.
LAST TIME OUT
Lancashire faced Cambridge in a three-day match this time last year, although it ended up being heavily rain-affected, and both sides could only complete their first innings.
Steven Croft made an unbeaten 103 and Haseeb Hameed 59 in Lancashire's 290-7 declared before the students were bowled out for 224, with Jimmy Anderson and Kyle Jarvis taking three wickets apiece.
Lancashire and Somerset played out a high-scoring Championship draw at Emirates Old Trafford last September, with rain also having its say. Both sides claimed 10 points apiece.
Somerset racked up 553-8 having been inserted by Lancashire, with this season's new captain Tom Abell hitting 135 and Peter Trego an unbeaten 154.
Tom Bailey picked up 5-111, including three wickets in one over.
Alviro Petersen then underpinned Lancashire's reply of 422-9 with 155 against his former county.
WHAT THEY SAID
Glen Chapple says his players are ready and raring to go after their winter training exploits.
Lancashire have played two two-day matches within the last fortnight, against the UAE and Yorkshire on their tour of Dubai, and now they will build up the intensity across their two fixtures.
"If anything, the Dubai trip lacked a bit of red ball volume," said the Red Rose head coach.
"But we make up for that by the whole squad getting to play in a competitive game of cricket this weekend.
"Proper professional, competitive cricket is what people are looking forward to and getting into the season, hopefully getting off to a good start."