Match Preview: Lightning vs Foxes
Lancashire's final North Group fixture comes against the Foxes, with Glen Chapple's side aiming to finish on a high ahead of the knockout stages
Lancashire’s group campaign comes to a close with their final home game of the summer at Emirates Old Trafford.
A win would secure top spot in the table, as would a tie or a No Result. But we certainly don’t want to finish on that note.
Nottinghamshire are second and two points behind with a marginally inferior net run-rate and one win fewer - six to the Lightning’s seven.
So it may yet be that Glen Chapple's could finish top despite a defeat. But that wouldn’t be ideal either. That would mean the Lightning would head into next week’s quarter-finals with two successive home defeats after Monday’s reverse against Derbyshire.
Therefore, this is a significant game for Dane Vilas and co as they bid to regain momentum ahead of the next week's quarter-final.
Leicestershire have won four and lost six of their 13 matches so far and are out of contention for the last eight.
Richard Gleeson and Saqib Mahmood will come back into contention after missing the Derby game, an understandable decision to manage two key fast bowlers with two games in two days last weekend.
Midway through the month, Leicestershire were very much in the hunt for a top four finish and qualification for the quarters. They had just beaten Derbyshire and were right in the mix.
Since then, however, they have had a game rained off and suffered back-to-back defeats, the latest against Derby in the reverse fixture on Sunday, to end their chances of progression.
The past champions, who were the early market leaders when T20 was first introduced, have a distinct Red Rose flavour in their current set-up, both in the playing squad and the coaching staff.
Cumbrian head coach Paul Nixon came to Old Trafford to watch his county cricket as a junior, while former Lancashire captain Tom Smith is their second-team coach.
Playing wise, Gavin Griffiths and Arron Lilley won the Blast with Lancs in 2015, while Callum Parkinson, twin brother of Matt, is a former captain of the under-17s. Harry Dearden is a former Red Rose junior, while Paul Horton is also their Championship skipper.
The Foxes have won four Blast games this summer, including beating Birmingham at home when captain Colin Ackermann, a South African batting all-rounder, took a world record haul of 7-18 from his four overs of off-spin.
They are playing without an overseas player, but not without experience in the form of ex-Australia batsman Mark Cosgrove, who has been opening for them.
He has posted 280 runs, the second best haul in the squad behind Ackermann, who has 321 with two fifties. Youngster Harry Swindells has also enjoyed an encouraging first campaign with two fifties. Ackermann is their leading wicket-taker with 12.
The return fixture at Grace Road earlier in the competition was one of the many rained off No Results around the country in both North and South Groups this summer.
So the last time these two sides met on the field was at Emirates Old Trafford last August when the Foxes pinched victory on the back of a stunning innings from Afghanistan all-rounder Mohammad Nabi, who has actually been playing his Blast cricket for Kent this year.
Nabi’s 86 not out off only 36 balls helped them chase down a 191 target when all seemed lost.
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 Nabi 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.
WHAT THEY SAID
Liam Livingstone is backing Alex Davies to star at just the right time after a largely frustrating campaign for the opening batsman.
Davies was Lancashire’s standout with the bat last summer in the Blast with six fifties in a haul of 534 runs, the fourth best haul in the competition.
But this season the 25-year-old has only posted one half-century in nine innings, with a haul of 188 runs.
Davies is closing in 1,000 career T20 runs for Lancashire. He is four runs away from becoming the 11th Red Rose player to achieve that feat.
Livingstone (1,288) is one of the 10 who have already got there, with Steven Croft (3,395) leading the way by some distance. The second best is Karl Brown (2,188).
Davies has posted successive ducks, but was unlucky in Sunday’s home defeat against Derbyshire when he crunched a pull shot off Logan van Beek straight down deep square-leg’s throat. Five yards either side and it would have been six.
Davies’ only half-century was the 75 he scored in the win against Northamptonshire at Wantage Road.
Livingstone said: “It happens in T20 cricket. It was (Sunday) probably one of the best shots he’s hit all campaign, and it goes straight to the man.
“It happens, but Alex will be fine. He’s one of our best players, and there’s every reason for that.
“Hopefully he comes back strong and saves all of his runs for the knockout stages.”
Buy your Vitality Blast tickets
Tickets are on sale for tomorrow's Vitality Blast fixture against Leicestershire Foxes at Emirates Old Trafford.
They are priced from £1 juniors and £5 adults when bought in advance.