Match preview: Lightning vs Rapids
Last year's winners visit Emirates Old Trafford in a repeat of the 2018 semi-final
The fixtures come thick and fast in the North Group.
After last night’s Roses victory - by nine runs - at Emerald Headingley, the Lightning face their second of three fixtures in four days - the latter coming against Derbyshire at the County Ground on Sunday afternoon.
This is a repeat of last season’s semi-final at Edgbaston when the Rapids triumphed on their way to a maiden Blast crown, beating Sussex in the evening final.
Lancashire will look to continue an impressive unbeaten start to their campaign having won two and had a No Result from three games so far.
Worcestershire, meanwhile, have won one (Notts away) and had a No Result from their two fixtures.
New Zealand overseas batsman Martin Guptill will open the batting for the Rapids against the county he briefly represented in the 2016 Blast. Guptill scored 125 runs in five appearances, including a top score of 72, in a Lancashire shirt.
The Lightning are likely to stick with the same team which saw off the Vikings at Headingley last night.
Arguably county cricket’s best white ball side over the last two or three years, the Rapids have harnessed T20 success with near misses in the Royal London One-Day Cup.
This season, they were knocked out in the semi-final eliminator by eventual RL50 champions Somerset, while last season they were beaten semi-finalists.
Brett D’Oliveira will skipper the Rapids tonight in the absence of regular Blast captain Moeen Ali (Test duty).
Last season, fledgling seamer Pat Brown harnessed pace and variations to take a competition high 31 wickets, a total Lancashire leg-spinner Matthew Parkinson challenged. Brown is certainly one to keep an eye on tonight and in future years.
Inventive wicketkeeper-batsman Ben Cox is a danger to any side, although the Rapids have lost England Lions batsman Joe Clarke to Notts from their Blast winning side, now coached by former county all-rounder Alex Gidman having replaced Kevin Sharp, who has since taken on more of a director of cricket role with a much fancier title (head of player and coaches development).
Last season, Martin Guptill smashed a 35-ball Blast century against Northamptonshire at Wantage Road, the fastest hundred of the English summer.
Worcestershire reached their first Blast final as they recovered from early strife to beat the Lightning at Edgbaston last September.
The Rapids were struggling at 97-6, but Ben Cox's half-century - 55 off 34 balls - saw them to 169-6 with help from England all-rounder Moeen Ali’s 41.
Captain Moeen then took 2-16 with his off-spinners, including the key wicket of Jos Buttler for 12, while Pat Brown bagged 4-21 at the death as Lancashire tried in vain to reach the target and the final.
Keaton Jennings top-scored with 51 not out in the Lightning’s 149-9.
In reply, the Red Rose were well placed at 67-1 in the seventh over, only to lose Liam Livingstone for a quick-fire 30.
Wickets then fell all too regularly, including Brown’s late four-for, including the wickets of dangerous pair Jordan Clark and James Faulkner, the latter who had earlier suffered a torn calf which meant he only bowled two overs.
WHAT THEY SAID
Part of Lancashire’s motivation for success this year is to banish the hurt of underperforming in last season’s semi-final.
The Lightning played good and consistent cricket to reach a seventh Finals Day before letting themselves down against the Rapids at Edgbaston, according to Dane Vilas, who played in that game and is now captaining the county.
“Getting to Finals Day is one of the big things in the year, it’s one of our goals,” said the experienced wicketkeeper-batsman.
“It was disappointing last year that we let ourselves down really, especially with the cricket we had been playing.
“It was one of our worst games in the competition.
“It would have been ok had we played a good game and they’d beaten us, but that didn’t happen.”
Buy your Vitality Blast tickets
Don’t forget to buy your tickets to watch Lancashire Lightning in the second home Vitality Blast fixture of the summer against Worcestershire Rapids on Friday 26 July.