Match Preview: Lancashire vs Northants
Lancashire v Northamptonshire
Specsavers County Championship, Division Two
Emirates Old Trafford
Tuesday May 14 - Friday 17, 11am
After a month-long break, Lancashire return to County Championship action with a spring in their step.
Not only did they win their opening Division Two match against Middlesex, one of their likely rivals for promotion, in the opening round at Lord’s last month, they then backed it up with some impressive performances in the Royal London one-day Cup
The Red Rose reached the knockout rounds for the first time since 2012 and won five successive North Group matches at one point. Unfortunately they were knocked out at the semi-final stage by Hampshire yesterday.
There was some excellent form from fast bowler Saqib Mahmood, who claimed hauls of six wickets and five wickets in back-to-back matches against Northants and Leicestershire, and he will hope to be in contention for red ball cricket sooner rather than later - maybe this week.
They face a Northants side who have drawn high-scoring matches against Middlesex and then Glamorgan.
Australian Test opener Joe Burns is set for his debut having arrived from Brisbane ahead of his pre-Ashes spell as Lancashire’s overseas player.
He is the third Aussie to represent the club in the first month of the season following Glenn Maxwell and Jake Lehmann.
Liam Livingstone is available having returned from the IPL. He played in the Royal London games over Middlesex and Hampshire at the weekend.
This clash is likely to come too soon for Alex Davies, who is closing in on a comeback from a broken right thumb suffered at Lord’s last month, while Jimmy Anderson is a doubt after suffering a blow to his knee whilst bowling against Hampshire in yesterday’s 50-over semi-final.
Northants should field two former Lancashire players Luke Procter and Nathan Buck.
On the evidence of the first two Division Two fixtures, the Northants batting line-up looks like it could be a tough nut to crack.
After amassing 445 in the first innings of an opening week draw against Middlesex at Wantage Road, a game they dominated but couldn’t force the win, they then racked up 750 in the first innings against Glamorgan at Sophia Gardens. Yes, 750!
Openers Ricardo Vasconcelos and Rob Newton hit 184 and 105 respectively before Rob Keogh hit 150 from the middle order against the Welshmen, who had earlier posted 570-8 declared.
West Indies captain Jason Holder played in both matches and the Royal London one-day Cup, but he has returned to national duty ahead of the World Cup.
He has been replaced by South African Test batsman Temba Bavuma for Championship cricket only across the next two months. He is set to debut this week.
Alex Wakely’s side finished second bottom in Division Two last year, winning four matches from 14 and losing eight.
These two sides haven’t met since late June, early July 2015 when Lancashire secured promotion back to the Division One.
Going into this Emirates Old Trafford clash, the Red Rose had won four out of the last five four-day matches, but Northants thwarted them in a contest dominated by the batsmen.
Opener Ben Duckett’s 138 was the feature of Northants’ first-innings 438 all out, with four wickets going to Australian James Faulkner.
Karl Brown then opened upon with 97 and Ashwell Prince hit 83 in Lancashire’s response of 308 all out.
Duckett impressed again with 88 in the second innings as Northants declared on 283-9, setting Lancashire a victory target of 414 late on day three.
The Red Rose would have a minimum of 102 overs at their disposal, and hopes were raised by a 130 opening stand between Paul Horton (65) and Brown, whose 82 was his fifth successive half-century.
But after rain forced an early lunch, fast bowler Olly Stone, who has since progressed through to England honours and has signed for Warwickshire, claimed 3-9 in a fiery burst as Lancashire slipped to 146-3 and then later 185-6.
They then fell to 206-7 with 35 overs remaining, but the rain returned to ensure they escaped with eleven points for the draw.
The Red Rose were promoted behind Surrey and won the T20 Blast that season, beating Northants in the final at Edgbaston.
WHAT THEY SAID
Joe Burns has two things on his mind as he arrives at Lancashire - success with the county and cementing an Ashes spot.
The Queensland opener is one of a number of candidates to open against England later this summer, with left-handers Marcus Harris and David Warner in the mix.
Aaron Finch is also a candidate having done that job within the last 12 months.
Burns scored 180 against Sri Lanka at Canberra in Australia’s most recent Test series in February having only just returned to the side.
In 16 Tests, he has four hundreds, a quarter of the 29-year-old’s haul of first-class centuries.
Burns is likely to play eight or nine Championship matches for Lancashire before linking up with the Aussies if, as is likely, he is selected in their final squad for the Ashes in mid-July.
Burns knows runs will be key to press his claims, but he insists he has nothing to prove and is more concerned by winning matches for the Red Rose.
“I'm looking forward to the challenge of going to Lancashire and hopefully contributing to a season where we can get promoted in the four-day stuff,” he said recently.
"I've made big runs in the past – the selectors know I can make big runs.
"I'm not going to Lancashire trying to show people I can make big runs, I’m going to Lancashire to try and contribute to their success by buying into their team culture and ambitions.
"I know if I go to Lancashire and I learn off the guys around me about how to win in England, that would leave me in the best stead if I got the call-up to Australia.”