PREVIEW: Lancashire to play in Emirates T20
Lancashire Lightning look ahead to the Emirates T20 tournament
LANCASHIRE turn their attentions to T20 cricket on their pre-season tour of Dubai as they once again take part in the Emirates Airline competition, and first up is a meeting with an old friend on Thursday morning.
Ashley Giles coached the Lightning to the 2015 NatWest T20 Blast title, the county's first, but he has since returned home to become the new sport director at Warwickshire or, in 20-over terms, the Birmingham Bears.
The two counties meet at the ICC Global Academy tomorrow in the first of a possible three matches over two days.
Lancashire also play Pakistan Super League outfit Lahore Qalandars on Friday morning before a possible evening final.
Liam Livingstone is back on county duty after a busy second half of the winter, including a stunning England Lions tour to Sri Lanka and a defeat for the North against the South in the new ECB-led 50-over series, played in Dubai and Abu Dhabi over the last week.
It is the same situation with fledgling fast bowler Saqib Mahmood, who could also be a key weapon for the Lightning this summer.
Fit again wicketkeeper Alex Davies is in line to return to action after last season's knee problems.
While the four English sides taking part in this event, Lancashire, Birmingham, Durham and the MCC, are all preparing their players for the new county season, Lahore and Pakistan Super League champions Peshawar Zalmi played competitive cricket only last month.
Lahore finished bottom of the PSL group stage, winning only three of their eight matches, and they will be missing star names such as Brendon McCullum, Azhar Ali, Grant Elliott, Sunil Narine and Yasir Shah.
Birmingham and Lancashire, Blast winners in 2014 and 2015, both failed to qualify for last season's quarter-finals, with the Red Rose pipping the Bears to fifth place in the North Division courtesy of a final round win at Emirates Old Trafford.
The Bears will be captained by Ian Bell, who has enjoyed T20 success this winter in Australia with Big Bash champions Perth Scorchers.
Both matches (Birmingham Thursday, Lahore Friday) begin at 10.30am local time (6.30am UK).
Lancashire won an entertaining low-scoring clash with Birmingham at Emirates Old Trafford last July by 30 runs, with Jordan Clark, Tom Moores and Mahmood the stars of the show.
The Lightning, batting first on a slow pitch, were in trouble at 59-5 in the 14th over before Moores and Clark, who hit 39 and 31 respectively, shared an unbroken 65 to boost the score.
Thankfully, it proved to be enough, with Mahmood impressing with 3-12 from four overs, including the key wicket of Bell.
Only opener Sam Hain made it beyond 20 for the Bears, who were restricted to 94-8 from their 20 overs and failed to qualify for the quarters as a result.
Lancashire and Lahore have never met.
WHAT THEY SAID
Steven Croft wants Lancashire to learn from last year's mistakes and gain some early momentum going into this summer's Blast.
It may only be a friendly tournament, but Croft is keen for the Red Rose to win this Dubai event for the first time.
"Our T20 season was poor last year, and it’s a case of learning from our mistakes," said the skipper. “There still be a lot of the same faces around still, so hopefully the lads will be better suited.
“We have been a good T20 side for the majority of the years I’ve been playing here, and we need to get back to winning ways.
“A massive thing in T20 cricket is momentum, and to get some early wins would be great.
“You want to start playing against the best players around, and it should be a great tournament this year.
“It’s changed venues this year, which means the pitches should be better.
“We will have a good mix in our side, and hopefully we get a few early wins."
Meanwhile, Giles is also looking forward to the event and a meeting with his old side following two fruitful years in the North West.
"It'll be great," said the ex-England spinner. "There's no problem with me and Lancashire, and I really enjoyed my two years there.
"Winning the T20 at Edgbaston with Lancashire was one of the best days of my career, so I've got fond memories of the guys.
"But both sides will want to win. There are always good contests between Lancashire and Warwickshire, and I guess my situations just adds a little bit more spice.
"But it's the chance for us to really start honing our skills for the summer.
"I wish the Lancashire players well. Some of them I brought into the team, and I hope they do really well - but obviously not when they play Warwickshire."
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