MATCH PREVIEW: Lightning v Rapids
PREVIEW: 2018 Vitality Blast Finals Day
Lancashire v Worcestershire, Vitality Blast semi-final
T20 Finals Day, Edgbaston
Saturday 15 September, 2018, 11am
Lancashire are preparing for their seventh Finals Day appearance and targeting their second Blast title.
The Lightning take on a Rapids side who are making their first appearance at county cricket’s T20 showpiece.
The two North Group sides meet in the morning semi-final before Somerset take on Sussex in the other semi during the afternoon ahead of a 6.45pm final.
Worcestershire finished top of the North just ahead of Durham courtesy of a superior net run-rate, while Lancashire finished third.
The Rapids beat Lancashire in the opening game of the group stage at Emirates Old Trafford earlier this summer before a washout at New Road.
While Lancashire advanced to Finals Day with a quarter-final win over Kent at Canterbury, Worcester beat local rivals Gloucestershire at New Road.
Lancashire have been boosted by the return from injury of captain Liam Livingstone, who was a talismanic all-round figure during the first half of the group campaign before breaking his thumb.
He hasn’t played a T20 game since the home Roses win over Yorkshire in late July, and he will return to captain the side.
The Lightning also have England duo Jos Buttler and Keaton Jennings available after Test duty.
Both played in the quarter-final win over Kent.
Worcestershire, meanwhile, will be without overseas former Lancashire opener Martin Guptill due to a hamstring injury. Callum Ferguson and Travis Head have also returned to Australia, leaving South Africa fast bowler Wayne Parnell as their only overseas.
Worcestershire are Rapidly emerging, pardon the pun, as one of the best white ball sides in England having also reached the semi-final of the Royal London one-day Cup in each of the last two seasons.
Their overseas players, Callum Ferguson, Martin Guptill and Travis Head and Wayne Parnell have contributed significantly to success, while their young guns such as Joe Clarke, Brett D’Oliveira, Ben Cox and Ed Barnard have all impressed.
D’Oliveira is hoping to be fit having missed their recent Championship match with Surrey due to a back spasm.
They have won 10 of their 15 matches this season to Lancashire’s nine of 15.
Worcestershire prevailed in a high-scoring thriller to win by six wickets with one ball to spare at Emirates Old Trafford earlier this month.
A crucial 67-run partnership off 41 balls between skipper Brett D’Oliveira and Ross Whiteley pulled the game around for the Rapids who were 118-4 in the 13th over chasing 189 after the Red Rose amassed 188-6.
Although Whiteley perished in the last over for 28, Ed Barnard hit the only ball he faced for four from the fifth ball to clinch victory.
Lancashire had produced a strong performance with the bat, led by Keaton Jennings’ half-century, to post a good total on the same pitch used for the T20 international between England and India two days earlier.
Alex Davies and Liam Livingstone got the innings off to a flying start with an opening partnership of 58 off 40 balls after winning the toss.
With seven required from the final over, Whiteley fell to Jordan Clark, but D’Oliveira was still there at the end unbeaten on 37 as Barnard struck the winning runs.
The return fixture at New Road was then washed out.
WHAT THEY SAID
Alex Davies, a Blast winner in 2015, is relishing another raid on Finals Day.
The Lancashire batsman, who has posted a club record six fifties in this season’s Blast campaign, said: “We went to Finals Day in 2014 and 2015, so we know what it’s like to be on the losing end and the winning end. We’re just going to try and recreate 2015. There’s a lot of players still here, like Faulkner. They all know how it feels.
“We finished the group stage well, and momentum is key. Once you get through the group, you only have to win three games to win it.
“We didn’t play the first game in 2015, so that’s going to be a new one on us. We’ll have to assess conditions really quickly. It might be a low-scoring affair.
“It’s a day everyone looks forward to. At the beginning of the year, when the fixtures come out, you look for Yorkshire and then Finals Day.”
With Buttler and Jennings available, Lancashire have some selection headaches, and Davies added: “I don’t want to be Livvy or Chappie. Good luck to them because there’s some good players missing out.”