Unbeaten Lancashire have breezed Specsavers County Championship Division Two, but they are fully aware that plenty of hard work lies ahead this winter as they contemplate the step up in level in 2020.
Captain Dane Vilas’ side won eight of their 14 games and won the title by 45 points from second-placed Northamptonshire, bouncing back immediately from the disappointment of relegation this time last year.
“We’ve ticked the box of being Division Two champions, and we’ve played some good cricket,” said the exceptional South African who was the big winner at Friday’s player of the year gala dinner at Emirates Old Trafford.
“We wanted to go into Division One with a lot of momentum and a lot of confidence. But we have a lot of preparation to do.
“We need to reassess and come back from the highs we’ve had this summer.
“We need to reflect on where we can improve and where we were the last time we were in Division One.”
Vilas continued: “It’s a stepping stone. Hopefully we can now push for a title in Division One.
“That’s where everyone wants to be, and we’re looking forward to that.
“Building a good squad and big squad will be key to longevity for a team.
“You have to do well the whole time. There won’t be any easy games.
“There is a long way to go because there are some great teams in Division One. It’s going to be a long hard slog and I’m looking forward to it.”
That last comment sums Vilas up perfectly. When the going gets tough, he gets going.
This season he has scored 1,734 runs across all three formats, including 1,036 in the Championship with one hundred and a double ton.
He has batted at number six, kept wicket – 47 catches and a stumping – and skippered the side brilliantly.
That his Red Rose team-mates nicknamed him, ‘Second to (Steve) Smith’, tells you everything you need to know about the 34-year-old who was one of only seven players across either division to top 1,000 Championship runs.
At Old Trafford on Friday, he was named as the Championship player of the year, the Red Rose executive members’ player of the year and the club’s overall player of the year.
Josh Bohannon was named young player, while Glenn Maxwell and Saqib Mahmood scooped the T20 and one-day awards.
“As a squad we have been fantastic this year,” said batsman Keaton Jennings.
“Josh Bohannon has gone from batting at number seven to going at number three, and that’s always hard work.
“Everyone has put their hand up at one time or another, and hopefully we can carry that on into next year.
“From a batting point of view, we have five guys averaging over 40 and a two or three more not far behind. And that’s resulted in us putting pressure on sides because we had runs on the board.
“Then, from the bowling point of view, we’ve been outstanding. Everybody that’s come in has done a job for us.
“When we move into Division One, the job will be to replicate that sort of form for long periods of time.”
Vilas, meanwhile, is set to play a much greater part in Lancashire’s pre-season programme this winter given he is not playing a full winter of domestic cricket in South Africa.
He will play in the Mzansi T20 Super League in November and December for Durban Heat, but his wife Pippa, working on an ancestral visa, and their two young children are settled in the UK.