Preview: Lancashire vs Surrey
Kumar Sangakkara heads to Emirates Old Trafford for his final first-class match, and he will quite rightly grab plenty of the attention.
But this fixture sees two counties go head to head for second place in Division One of the Specsavers County Championship.
Lancashire’s season of progression has stalled in the last couple of weeks, losing away matches against Somerset and Middlesex, both counties who remain in danger of relegation.
If the Red Rose can reverse that trend and win for the fifth time this season, they will leapfrog Surrey back into second. The current gap is three points.
Lancashire have won all four of their games at home this year, so the omens are good in that regard. Three have come at Old Trafford and one at Southport.
Ryan McLaren needs five wickets in the match to reach 50 Championship wickets for the season and Alex Davies 168 runs to reach 1,000.
Surrey sit second with two wins, 10 draws and one defeat.
They beat second-bottom Somerset by six wickets thanks to a successful chase of 143 in the final session at the Oval on Friday.
Retiring Sangakkara has undoubtedly been their standout player and the best batsmen in county cricket this summer, scoring a staggering 1,442 runs in only nine matches.
His haul is more than 400 better than the next best scorer in Division One, county colleague and England Test opener Mark Stoneman, who will also play this week and should be celebrating an Ashes call-up on Wednesday.
Surrey have won just one of their last nine away Championship trips to Lancashire, drawing four and losing four.
That win came at Old Trafford in 2004, although they lost by an innings here last May when Kyle Jarvis took eleven wickets in the match.
Lancashire, however, have not lost three successive Championship matches since 2001.
LAST TIME OUT
Lancashire recovered from 67-5 to post 470 in their first innings and have the better of an early season draw.
Surrey, who had won their first match of the season against Warwickshire, were much fancied for the title.
The Red Rose arrived at the Oval in mid-April, and they were soon under the cosh.
But centuries for Shiv Chanderpaul and Jordan Clark turned the game on its head. They shared a brilliant seventh-wicket stand of 243 to advance from 122-6.
Chanderpaul hit 182, while Clark’s 140 was his maiden century.
Lancashire made Surrey follow on late on the third day by bowling them out for 319, with Stephen Parry taking three wickets.
Unfortunately, they were unable to force the win as third-wicket pair Scott Borthwick and Sangakkara both hit hundreds.
Borthwick finished with 108 not out and Sangakkara 136, sharing 256 for the third wicket as the hosts finished on 323-3.
Still, it was a hugely encouraging week for a Lancashire side that continued on an upwards curve.
WHAT THEY SAID
Lancashire captain Steven Croft has set out the challenge for his players this week: “We want that second spot,” he insisted.
“It’s going to be tough against a good Surrey side, but we’ve been up and around there all year and want a strong finish.
“We’ve got all our other wins at home this year, so hopefully we can get our fifth one.
“It’s a really strong division with a lot of good sides in it, and it’s going to go right to the wire.
“We’ve been disappointed with the last two games, losing to Somerset and Middlesex. We’ve had some tough games and tough periods to go through, and we’ve come out fighting in those second innings.
“We haven't had a lot of luck the last two games, but there are things we could have done better.”
Tom Bailey was Lancashire’s standout performer against Middlesex at Lord’s last week with a career best 10 wickets in the match.
It was only the seamer’s seventh match of the season, and he earned praise from his skipper.
“Tom’s stuck in there all season, and he’s done the right things,” added Croft. “When he’s not been involved in the first team, he’s done well for the seconds.
“It’s great to see that he got the rewards.”