PREVIEW: Bears v Lightning
MATCH PREVIEW: Birmingham Bears v Lancashire Lightning Vitality Blast
Read our match preview ahead of the Vitality Blast clash between Birmingham Bears and Lancashire Lightning at Edgbaston.
Birmingham v Lancashire
Wednesday 13 August, 2018
Lancashire have qualified for the quarter-finals with a North Group game to spare. Now they’ll go in search of a top two finish and a home quarter-final.
The Lightning currently sit second on 17 points, the same as third-placed Worcestershire but with a better net run-rate. That means a fourth straight win, and second in six days against the Bears, would put them in pole position to finish second and possibly top. Worcestershire play their last game on Friday, also away at Birmingham.
If Lancashire win their final group game, they would go top of the group, a point ahead of Durham, who could then return there on Friday with a win over Derbyshire.
As aforementioned, the Lightning have won their last three games, against Yorkshire, Birmingham and Durham, the latter being the latest at Emirates Riverside on Sunday. The Bears are at the point of no return in terms of quarter-final qualification. They currently sit seventh and three points adrift of fourth-placed Nottinghamshire with two to play and a game in hand.
Lancashire have won their three games on the bounce with a settled batting line-up, but they have tinkered with their bowling line-up depending upon conditions.
Against Yorkshire and Birmingham, they played three specialist spinners, while they played the extra seamer at Durham on Sunday, with Toby Lester replacing Scottish left-arm spinner Mark Watt.
It is expected that Glen Chapple will named the same sqaud for the away leg tomorrow.
Birmingham could be forgiven for wondering how they find themselves in seventh position and with an uphill task to qualify.
Last season’s finalists and the 2014 champions won two of their first three North Group games and have two of the competition’s leading individual performers.
Former England batsman Ian Bell, who opens for the Bears, is the Blast’s leading run-scorer with 527 from 12 innings with one hundred and four fifties.
Bell is the only man to have topped 500 runs this summer. But Lancashire’s Alex Davies has 497.
On the bowling front, captain and all-rounder Grant Elliott has taken 17 wickets with his seamers, and he is eighth on the wicket-takers’ list. The Bears have won five, lost six and tied one of their 12 games so far.
Tomorrow’s clash is part of a double header with a women’s Super League fixture (3pm), as the top two teams Loughborough and Western Storm face each other. Both fixtures will be televised by Sky.
Matt Parkinson claimed 3-23 as Lancashire beat Birmingham by 37 runs to make it back-to-back Vitality Blast wins on Friday and strengthen their grip on a quarter-final place.
The Lightning comfortably defended their total of 185-5 at Emirates Old Trafford, given to them by Karl Brown’s half-century and late-order firepower from Jordan Clark.
The visitors handed a debut to off-spinning all-rounder Alex Thomson, and he certainly didn’t disappoint, taking a wicket in each over to finish with 4-35.
Lancashire’s standout performer with the bat was once again opener Brown. 24 hours on from his match-winning half-century against Yorkshire, he delivered another scintillating fifty having been given a life on 32 when Josh Poysden couldn’t hold a caught and bowled chance.
The fifty from just 32 balls including three fours and as many sixes.
Australian overseas all-rounder James Faulkner also claimed three wickets in the defence, including the early scalp of Bell, as the Bears finished on 148 all out.
WHAT THEY SAID
Glen Chapple says he has been delighted with Lancashire’s response after losing last week’s home clash with Durham in remarkable fashion.
The Lightning failed to chase down six needed off the last over with four wickets in hand against part-time left-arm spinner Liam Trevaskis.
It formed part of a run of four games without a win.
But since, they have won their last three outings to advance beyond the group stage for the first time since the title-winning year of 2015.
The coach said: “It’s been an excellent competition in general for us so far."
“Results like that (Durham at home) happen in T20 cricket, and it’s always how you come back from it. You can’t guarantee wins, but if you do the right things you can guarantee the right level of competitiveness. And the lads have been fantastic the last three games."
“Immediately after that, Headingley couldn’t have been a tougher place to go. I think they’d won 17 out of the last 19 at home."
“People quite rightly cast doubts over the team. But they performed brilliantly there. The two performances since have been terrific."
“It’s now more about continuing playing the cricket we’re playing (than getting a home QF).”