Match Preview: Lightning vs Eagles
Lancashire Lightning face off against Essex Eagles at Durham's Emirates Riverside for a place at Vitality Blast Finals Day
Lancashire are bidding for their eighth Finals Day appearance and take on Essex for only the second time in T20 cricket, with the Eagles winning a previous quarter-final meeting at Chelmsford in 2010.
The Lightning head into this clash at Durham, played at a neutral venue due to a date clash with the fourth Ashes Test at Emirates Old Trafford, having finished top of the North Group table for the fourth time in their history.
Essex pinched fourth spot in the South during the last round of group games on Friday after beating Kent.
This is the 12th time the Lightning have reached the last eight in 17 seasons since T20 was first introduced back in 2003, and they have won seven of 10 previous matches, added to a bowl out defeat against Somerset at Old Trafford in 2009.
Wednesday’s game will not be the first time Lancashire have played a quarter-final tie at a neutral venue. In 2008, they met Middlesex at the Oval because Lord’s was unavailable. Unfortunately, they lost on that occasion.
This clash will be televised live on Sky Sports immediately after the first day of the Test Match at Old Trafford.
Glen Chapple has no fresh injury worries for Lancashire Lightning.
Essex will be without Pakistani left-arm seamer Mohammad Amir, whose overseas stint ended after the end of the group stages on Friday.
Sir Alastair Cook has not been part of the Eagles’ Blast campaign this summer.
Essex were far from favourites to secure a top-four place ahead of Friday’s final round of group fixtures, but they beat Kent at Chelmsford and other results went their way.
They have never won the Vitality Blast, although have previously experienced Finals Day.
Captained by former South African spinner Simon Harmer, once a league professional at Monton, the Eagles won five of their 14 group games.
They have plenty of danger men in their side, most notably opening batsman Cameron Delport. Lancashire know all about the powerful South African left-handed opener, who has previously played for Leicestershire.
He has scored 309 runs this season, including a blistering 129 off only 49 balls in a rain-affected home win against Surrey in July. In a 15-over game, Delport reached 100 off 38 balls, the fastest ton in England this summer.
England Lions batsman Dan Lawrence is their leading scorer so far with 345 runs, including four fifties. He generally bats at number four.
Tom Westley, wicketkeeper Adam Wheater, Ravi Bopara and Championship captain Ryan ten Doeschate all make up their batting line-up.
With the ball, Australian international leg-spinner Adam Zampa has taken 12 wickets, the most for an Eagle in 2019, while the now departed Mohammad Amir and off-spinner Harmer have both struck 10 times.
Essex are coached by former Yorkshire and England all-rounder Anthony McGrath. They are currently top of the Specsavers County Championship Division One by two points from Somerset going into the final three rounds of the summer.
Mark Pettini and Matthew Walker carried the hosts to Finals Day in 2010 after a fabulous second-wicket partnership of 147 off 92 balls secured an eight-wicket win over the Lightning at Chelmsford in 2010.
A series of useful contributions, topped by Paul Horton’s 44, led the Lightning to a commanding 183-6 having been inserted by the hosts.
Glen Chapple then had Ravi Bopara caught behind early in the Essex chase (17-1 in the third over) before Pettini and Walker, the latter now coaching Kent, hit 81 and 74 not out respectively to put their side on course.
Stephen Moore was carried off having suffered a nasty shoulder injury whilst fielding in front of a partisan home crowd.
But when Sajid Mahmood bowled Pettini, the game was still alive, with Essex needing 19 off two overs.
Unfortunately, captain James Foster came in and hit 16 off five balls, including three fours, to seal victory with five balls to spare.
The 147 shared between Pettini and Walker remains the highest partnership against Lancashire for any wicket in the history of the Blast.
WHAT THEY SAID
Keaton Jennings, formerly of Durham, is relishing the return to his old stomping ground as the Lightning bid to better last season’s semi-final defeat at Edgbaston.
Jennings left Durham to join Lancashire at the end of 2017.
“It’s a cool thing that we’re playing a home quarter up there. Durham suits the way we play, it’s a big field. But wherever we play, we need to play well,” he said.
The Lightning are in buoyant mood having won eight of 14 group games, losing only twice and added to four rained off No Results.
While leg-spinner Matthew Parkinson has starred with 21 wickets - he is the joint leading wicket-taker in the competition at present with Derbyshire’s Ravi Rampaul - their runs have been almost equally shared around.
No batsman is yet to reach 300 runs. Glenn Maxwell leads the way with 291, while Liam Livingstone, Steven Croft, captain Dane Vilas and Alex Davies have all made it into the 200s.
Livingstone has also struck 13 times with his spinners, while Maxwell has claimed claimed five wickets with his offies and added eight catches.
Jennings said: “Maxi’s been very good. He’s brought a different approach to the group. He thinks about his cricket in a very different way to other people.
“He’s very dedicated in everything about the game.
“He will be a loss for Finals Day if we get there, but that’s part and parcel.
“He just thinks outside the box, he has an aggressive nature, and the way he competes with different bowlers at certain times is something special to watch.
“I remember batting with him at Edgbaston when he got 80 off 40 balls or whatever it was. It was one of the most ridiculous things I’ve watched.
“He was hitting balls over short third-man essentially with a straight bat. And it wasn’t luck by any stretch of the imagination. It was thought through, calculated and very well executed.
“In the field, he’s been fantastic. He grabs hold of everyone and makes sure we’re all on it and in the right places.”
Maxwell’s presence has been a huge help to captain Dane Vilas, who is enjoying a fabulous summer with the bat in all forms of cricket.
Added to 218 runs in the Blast, he has scored 965 in the Championship, including a double century last time out against Glamorgan at Colwyn Bay, and 439 in the early season Royal London One-Day Cup, in which the Red Rose reached the semi-finals.
Jennings said: “We’ve been brilliantly led by Dano. He must be one of the form players in the world at the moment if we’re honest.
“He’s hitting beach balls while the rest of us are hitting golf balls. He’s playing unbelievable cricket.”
The left-hander added: “We’ve had a very good year so far, and hopefully we can end it with some silverware at Finals Day and in the Championship as well.