Mullally takes aim at his third ambition

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The Independent Online
Alan Mullally returns to the Leicestershire side today having already achieved two of his ambitions for the season but aware that pulling off the last may be the most difficult, writes Jon Culley.

The lanky left-arm England pace bowler was determined his ability would be recognised with a Test cap this year, followed by a place on the winter tours. The second wish was granted on Tuesday when he was named in the party for Zimbabwe and New Zealand. However, clinching the third goal - the Championship - may be trickier.

Ahead by only one point going into the penultimate round, Leicestershire know that a maximum haul against Durham at Chester-le-Street, starting today, and then Middlesex at Grace Road next week would guarantee a first title since 1975.

The race is open enough still for Surrey, Derbyshire and Essex to view their prospects with similar optimism. Kent, though 15 points behind Leicestershire, remain in the hunt and even Yorkshire, while no longer holding a realistic chance, are mathematical contenders.

Mullally signed a new three-year contract yesterday and his return, fully rested, gives Leicestershire's captain, James Whitaker, a full hand, provided there are none who succumb to a flu bug doing the rounds at Grace Road.

Stuart Law, the Australian all-rounder, is back to aid the Essex challenge (they play at home to Sussex, then Glamorgan) after helping Australia reach the Singer Cup final in Sri Lanka, but their strike bowler Neil Williams is out with a thigh injury.

Derbyshire, who finish at home to Durham, hope first to emulate Surrey and Essex in thrashing the outgoing champions, Warwickshire, at Derby.