Match Preview: Lightning vs Falcons
Lancashire Lightning are aiming for a second win in as many days against a resurgent Falcons side
Lancashire’s penultimate home group game of the campaign will see them top the North Group with a victory over a Falcons side who are well placed to qualify - fourth in the North and three points clear of fifth place with two games remaining.
Steven Croft’s stunning 94 off 55 balls, an equal career best, paved the way for an impressive win over second-placed Worcestershire at New Road yesterday, with the visitors defending a target of 219 as Glenn Maxwell struck three times.
Derbyshire, meanwhile, hammered Leicestershire at Grace Road, by nine wickets chasing 125.
It would be no surprise to see the Lightning stick with a winning team to maintain momentum, something players and coaches say is oh so important in this format.
Derbyshire are on course for a quarter-final berth, a rare one at that.
They have only previously qualified twice for the last eight and never for Finals Day.
They were beaten by Lancashire in 2005 when Andrew Symonds starred for the Lightning and Luke Sutton was playing for the Falcons and again by Hampshire in 2017.
Coached by former Red Rose all-rounder Dominic Cork, a multiple limited overs finalist during his time with Lancashire, they also have Mal Loye on their coaching staff and ex-county all-rounder Luis Reece and left-arm spinner Mark Watt in their squad.
The Falcons have plenty of danger men, chiefly captain and opener Billy Godleman, Reece’s partner at the top of the order.
Experienced batsman Wayne Madsen mixes power with invention and loves to play the ramp shot, while fellow South African Leus du Plooy is closing in on the 300-run mark in the competition, which the former two have passed.
Former West Indies seamer Ravi Rampaul has taken 18 wickets and is the joint leading wicket-taker in the competition alongside four other bowlers, including Matthew Parkinson. He is playing on a Kolpak contract, while New Zealand fast bowler Logan van Beek is their only overseas player.
This season’s corresponding clash at Derbyshire was washed out due to rain late last month, meaning a point apiece.
Last year, the Lightning completed the double over the Falcons, firstly on the back of a Liam Livingstone century at Derby and then thanks to Toby Lester’s career best 4-25 in only his third game.
Captain Livingstone smashed 44 off 21 balls at the top of the order in the mid-July thriller at Emirates Old Trafford, the feature innings in the hosts’ 157-8 having elected to bat first on a pitch which favoured pace off.
Left-arm seamer Lester removed Ben Slater and Pakistani pinch-hitter Wahab Riaz early on (30-2) before Callum MacLeod and Wayne Madsen shared 51 to give the visitors real hope.
Matthew Parkinson then claimed two of three wickets to fall for 15 as Derbyshire slipped from 81-2 to 96-5 in the 15th over.
But still the game was not dead as Daryn Smit (28) and Lancashire-born Matt Critchley (19) took the target down to 23 off the last two overs.
Thankfully, however, James Faulkner conceded only five from the 19th over, leaving Lester defending 18 off the last, in which he removed both danger-men.
WHAT THEY SAID
Steven Croft has hailed Lancashire’s team effort in putting them one win away from Finals Day and two away from a second Blast title.
The former captain, who led the side to glory at Edgbaston in 2015, also believes this team is stronger than the one of four years ago, following on from the comparisons Liam Livingstone recently made about the sides.
“We are doing a great job. Multiple people are putting their hands up, which is great to see from a team,” said in-form Croft.
“I think on paper we are probably stronger than the team which won the competition in 2015 with the international experience we’ve got.”
Buy your Vitality Blast tickets
Tickets are on sale now for Lancashire Lightning's Vitality Blast fixture against Derbyshire Falcons at Emirates Old Trafford on Bank Holiday Monday.
They are priced from £1 juniors and £8 adults when bought in advance.