Match Preview: Foxes vs Lightning
Lancashire travel to Leicestershire tomorrow night in their first Vitality Blast 2019 fixture
Lancashire’s bid for an eighth Finals Day appearance and a second Blast title kicks off with a trip to the East Midlands to face a Leicestershire side who were the early pacesetters when this format was introduced back in 2003.
The Foxes won titles in 2004, 2006 and 2011, the latter coming having beaten Lancashire in the morning semi-final at Edgbaston.
That is how last year finished for the Lightning, albeit beaten by eventual champions Worcestershire.
It was something which hurt the Red Rose players as they felt they underperformed on the day. And they are desperate to make amends.
They certainly have the squad capable of achieving it, bolstered by the overseas arrival of Australian Glenn Maxwell for his first Blast campaign with his fourth English county.
A winner in 2012 with Hampshire, although he didn’t play at Finals Day, he has also played for Surrey and, whisper it quietly, Yorkshire. The world’s number one ranked all-rounder in T20 and the third best batsman, Maxwell has impressed in one-day and Championship cricket so far with the county.
While Lancashire reached Finals Day, Leicestershire missed out on the group stages.
The loss of Liam Livingstone through an intercostal injury is an obvious blow for the Lightning. Coach Glen Chapple has already said he hopes to have the dynamic all-rounder, cut from the same cloth as Maxwell in their style of play, available later in the competition.
Saqib Mahmood also misses this game with an abdominal injury.
Captain Dane Vilas is set to continue behind the stumps as Alex Davies continues to treat a broken finger earlier in the season with caution.
Australian overseas all-rounder James Faulkner returns to Lightning colours for a third campaign, linking up with compatriot and close mate Glenn Maxwell.
Coach Paul Nixon was an integral part of Leicestershire’s early success in T20 as a player - a tenacious wicketkeeper batsman who gave absolutely everything to his side’s cause.
He will now hope to improve the fortunes of a side which finished second bottom in the North last year, winning five of 14 games. Nixon was also in charge last year.
The Foxes have significant Lancashire links; Championship captain Paul Horton, Harry Dearden, Callum Parkinson, Gavin Griffiths - a Blast winner in 2015 with the Lightning - and Arron Lilley, who left Emirates Old Trafford in the winter. Tom Smith is also their current second-team coach.
South African Kolpak batsman Colin Ackermann is captain in this format and can call upon the experience of Australian Mark Cosgrove with ideas and runs.
Seamer Griffiths bowled the final over in Lancashire’s 2015 final win over Northants at Edgbaston, a clash in which Lilley also played.
Earlier this season, Horton retired from all white ball cricket, so won’t feature in this clash.
Leicestershire won a thriller at Emirates Old Trafford last August, chasing down a target of 191 in sensational fashion through Mohammad Nabi’s 86 not out off only 36 balls.
Lancashire, having elected to bat, rode on Alex Davies’ career best 94 not out with 11 fours and two sixes as they posted a seemingly unassailable 190-5, with valuable scores in the twenties from Karl Brown, Josh Bohannon and Steven Croft added.
But the Foxes triumphed as they recovered from 15-3 in reply.
When Afghanistan all-rounder, who has signed for Kent this year, walked to the crease, his side were 92-4 in the eleventh over, needing 99 more. It was a tall order to say the least. That theory was strengthened with the loss of Ben Raine on the same score.
But Nabi and Ateeq Javid shared an unbroken 102 for the sixth wicket, of which Javid scored only 15. Nabi hit four fours and eight sixes, completing the win with a massive eight balls to spare.
Lancashire may have been on the losing side - and thankfully it didn’t affect their quarter-final qualification - but Nabi’s knock was one of the most remarkable in T20 history at Old Trafford.
Earlier in the competition, Lancashire had won the reverse fixture by eight wickets at Grace Road chasing 143.
WHAT THEY SAID
Keaton Jennings is aiming for third time lucky at T20 Finals Day.
The Lancashire and England batsman has featured in two previous showpiece days at Edgbaston, for Durham in 2016 and the Red Rose last year.
In 2016, he scored 88 in the final defeat to Northants, opening the batting, and last year scored 51 not out from number five as the Lightning failed to chase 170 in the morning semi-final against Worcestershire.
“On Finals Day, you walk away feeling like you just want to cry if you don’t win it because you get so close and get kicked in the teeth,” he said.
“It’s a fantastic day to be a part of, don’t get me wrong. But to not get over the final hurdle is really hard to deal with. Hopefully this time, hey! But there’s a lot of cricket to be played before then.”
Last year, Jennings averaged 59.75 for the Lightning in T20, the highest of the squad, with two half-centuries coming in a haul of 239 runs from nine matches batting in the middle order.
Jennings’ T20 career - he also bowls some handy medium pacers - has been very much a case of Jack of all trades. But it would be grossly unfair to label the second half of that well known phrase, ‘master of none’ at him. After all, he will be a key man this year.
“I think I’ve had about 20 different roles in Twenty20 cricket through my career,” he said. “I started out with Durham fighting it out with Scott Borthwick to bat nine or 10. From there, I think I’ve batted in every position through to opening.
“It’s one of those things where I’ve been quite lucky to be exposed to different roles, and I’ve had to adapt, which has been quite a cool thing.
“Batting with guys in the middle order like Dane Vilas at Old Trafford can be hard work when everything becomes a scamper between the wickets! But it’s really good fun.
“As cheesy as this sounds, I’m a massive team man and will do whatever to help us be successful.
“It’s a format I really enjoy, T20 cricket. I also love playing 50-over cricket.
“To have put in performances, more so last year, to put Lancs in some really good positions, it’s a big pride point.
“We have a very exciting team with the likes of Alex Davies, Liam Livingstone, Saqib Mahmood, Matt Parkinson, who are still making their mark in limited overs cricket. Then we have some experienced heads with Jimmy Faulkner, Glenn Maxwell, Dane Vilas.
“We have a really strong side. Hopefully we can gel together and win those critical moments.”
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