Match Preview: Lightning to face Steelbacks and Foxes
Match Preview: Lancashire Lightning face back-to-back away NatWest T20 Blast fixtures
Lancashire face a crucial 48 hours in their bid for NatWest T20 Blast glory, with back-to-back away games against Northamptonshire and Leicestershire.
Lightning take on the Steelbacks, defending champions, at Wantage Road tomorrow night before heading to Grace Road on Friday to tackle a Foxes side who beat them at Liverpool last month.
Steven Croft and co have gone three games without a win in the last nine days, losing two of them to Derbyshire and Birmingham to hamper their chances of securing a quarter-final berth.
They sit just outside the top four qualifying places in the North Group with nine points from nine games.
These are two of five remaining group fixtures and the last before a mini break for the return to Championship cricket at Hampshire on Sunday.
Northants Steelbacks v Lancashire Lightning
Thursday 3 August
The County Ground
NatWest T20 Blast
Leicestershire Foxes v Lancashire Lightning
Friday 4 August
The Fischer County Ground
NatWest T20 Blast
Lancashire face, historically, the two most successful T20 sides over the next two nights.
Northants are reigning champions, and have won this competition twice in 2013 and 2016, whilst losing to the Lightning in the 2015 final.
Leicestershire are the only side to have won this competition three times, in 2004, 2006 and 2011.
The Foxes beat the Lightning in the 2011 semi-final at Edgbaston, but they have struggled for form in this competition since.
Both teams are in contention again, however.
Northants sit fourth in the table on 10 points from nine matches. They are one point and a place above Lancashire.
Both those positions could change this evening given Leicester host Notts at Grace Road.
Notts are sixth on nine points from eight, and a win will catapult them into the top four. The Foxes are seventh with eight from eight, and they could also move into the qualifying places pending net run-rate.
LAST TIME OUT
Lancashire and Northants have not played each other since the 2015 final at Edgbaston, discounting last season’s rained off clash at Emirates Old Trafford in mid-June.
Going back a couple of years to Lancashire’s greatest day in this format. They had beaten Hampshire in the semi-final before being invited to bat in the final and posting 166-7 thanks to 43 from Ashwell Prince and 47 for opening partner Alex Davies.
Two early wickets for Australian overseas all-rounder James Faulkner, getting big hitters Richard Levi and David Willey, put the skids under the Steelbacks.
They recovered to stay alive thanks to a 52-run stand for the fifth wicket between Josh Cobb (44 not out) and Shahid Afridi (26), who took the score to 133-4 midway through the 18th over.
Thankfully, Gavin Griffiths was superb with the ball. He removed Afridi and later defended 21 off the last over to win by 13 runs. He also finished with two wickets.
Ironically, Griffiths is likely to play against Lancashire on Friday for the Foxes.
Having been released at the end of last season, he signed on at Grace Road and played in Leicestershire’s three-wicket win over the Red Rose at Liverpool early last month.
Griffiths took one wicket as Lancashire made 173-9, slipping badly from 112-3 in the 12th over after Liam Livingstone and Jos Buttler, who made 48 and 39, had shared 72 for the fourth wicket.
Left-arm spinner Callum Parkinson, Matt’s twin brother, removed them both in an impressive debut spell of 2-28 from four overs.
Leicester then flew out of the blocks in pursuit, reaching 103-2 early in the eleventh.
Lancashire took wickets regularly from then on, but with South African Colin Ackermann at the crease and on the way to 62 not out, the Foxes just crept home by three wickets.
With two needed off the last ball from Kyle Jarvis, Ackermann hit it for six over cover.
WHAT THEY SAID
Coach Glen Chapple has described these two games for Lancashire as “the biggest part of the T20 campaign”.
Chapple admits the Lightning have not been at their best so far this season in the game’s shortest format, but the former all-rounder remains confident of success.
“It’s for us to pick up the small things that make a difference in close games,” he said, labelling the campaign as “messy”.
“Both groups look really tight, and that’s the nature of T20. If you’re playing against good sides, you can't just walk all over them.
“I don’t think we’re firing on all cylinders.
“I think we can do a bit better in the field, but we could also pick holes in the opposition if we wanted to. We’ll just have to keep addressing those areas.
“We need to win more games than we lose from here on in.
“We’ve still got a great chance, but we’ve got to work hard. There are positives. We have people in form.
“They’re all big games from now on. We’ve got the team capable of it.
“We’d like to win both games. If we do, that will put us up to a strong position in the group.”
Lancashire’s squad are on a week-long road trip which takes them to Hampshire for Sunday’s four-day clash.
The county are second in Division One with six games to play and 29 points behind leaders Essex in that competition.
Chapple added: “A win’s a win, and success in those two games would be good to take down to Hampshire.”
Bails and Ales drinks festival
This summer, Emirates Old Trafford will be hosting its first ever Bails and Ales drinks festival during the final two games of the 2017 NatWest T20 Blast campaign.
The Bails and Ales drinks festival will be the first of its kind for the biggest domestic cricket competition in the country, and will combine that festival atmosphere with exciting T20 cricket – with some of best named breweries coming together for this unique event including Heineken, JW Lees, Joseph Holt and Robinsons.
2017 Bails and Ales drinks festival dates
- Lancashire Lightning v Worcestershire Rapids (including Lancashire Thunder v Surrey Stars) – Wed 16 Aug
- Lancashire Lightning v Birmingham Bears – Fri 18 Aug
Buy your tickets for the first ever Bails and Ales drinks festival here, or by calling 0161 868 6868 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org ...but don’t forget you can benefit from the best ticket prices by buying online and can beat the queues by using our print at home tickets.