Match Preview: Lightning vs Vikings
Emirates Old Trafford is gearing up for the second T20 Game of Roses of 2019 after Lancashire ran out winners at Headingley two weeks ago
Only once before have the Lightning won their first six T20 games of a season - in 2009. That was the summer they were beaten in a quarter-final bowl out by Somerset in the Emirates Old Trafford Indoor School.
A win on Friday night would match that run, albeit this season’s excellent start has been interrupted by two rained-off No Results.
While Lancashire are flying high at the top of the North Group, Yorkshire are struggling to make it into the top four and the quarter-finals.
They have only won one of their first seven matches, losing three and picking up a point apiece from two No Results and Sunday’s home tie with Birmingham at Emerald Headingley when they threw away a position of strength chasing 178.
Lancashire are also aiming to complete the double double having beaten their arch-rivals in each of the last three fixtures dating back to the start of last summer.
This game will be watched by a record sell out crowd of 23,500, the highest ever for a Blast game outside of London. The Sky TV cameras will also be present.
There seems to be no obvious reason for captain and coach, Dane Vilas and Glen Chapple, to change a winning side which has served them well for the last four wins since Liam Livingstone and Saqib Mahmood returned to the side from injury for the win against Yorkshire at Headingley on July 25.
Yorkshire, meanwhile, could hand a debut to South African international spinner Keshav Maharaj, who played three Championship matches for them last month, taking 20 wickets and scoring two fifties.
Maharaj has returned to Headingley having flown back home for the Cricket SA annual awards dinner at the weekend.
The left-armer played three Championship matches for Lancashire at the back end of last season and is one of only four players to have played for both Roses rivals. Another is Glenn Maxwell, who will play for the Lightning in this fixture.
Yorkshire, by their own admission, are underachievers in Twenty20 cricket.
For a county of their size, it is a surprise that they have only reached Finals Day twice in 2012 and 2016 and the final once seven years ago. They have never won the competition.
They may be struggling badly this year, but do not underestimate them.
The Vikings have significant power and talent in their ranks with both bat and ball, highlighted by opening batsman Tom Kohler-Cadmore, a close friend of Saqib Mahmood’s, and Adam Lyth as well as all-rounder David Willey.
They have been hurt by injuries. Seamer Matthew Fisher suffering a dislocated shoulder and a broken thumb on the same day when they opened their campaign with a defeat at Derbyshire last month was a prime example, as was the fractured skull suffered in the nets for spinner Josh Poysden.
The latter is out for the season, but thankfully there is no lasting damage.
Yorkshire’s only win so far came against Leicestershire at Grace Road when they racked up a mammoth 255-2, the second highest score ever in Blast cricket by any county.
The White Rose also hold English record score - 260-4 against Northants at Emerald Headingley in 2017,
It is a sign of their explosiveness, but their lack of consistency over the years has been damaging.
Lancashire claimed their third successive Roses Vitality Blast win, by nine runs, as they defended 170 to silence a sold-out Emerald Headingley crowd last month (July 25).
England Lions fast bowler Saqib Mahmood claimed three wickets, including the key scalp of West Indies overseas star Nicholas Pooran for 43 off 31 balls in the 18th over with the game on the line after the Lightning’s challenging 170-6.
Yorkshire failed to get 23 off the last two overs with three wickets in hand and then 19 off the last with one remaining, finishing on 161-9.
The Lightning completed the North Group double last year and added another Roses scalp.
Yorkshire at least found heart in debutant off-spinner Jack Shutt’s two-wicket return.
Lancashire’s innings included three scores of 25 from openers Alex Davies and Liam Livingstone and Australian overseas Glenn Maxwell, playing against his former county.
Lancashire captain Dane Vilas hit three fours and as many sixes in 43 off 24, while Yorkshire’s Pooran - not available this week - also played aggressively. But nobody else from either side really got into sixth gear.
WHAT THEY SAID
Glenn Maxwell is set for his fourth Roses Blast clash, and he can’t wait, describing the prospect of a bouncing Emirates Old Trafford as “pretty spectacular”.
The Australian star is no stranger to a fierce rivalry, captaining the Melbourne Stars in the Big Bash at home when they have been known to get crowds of 80,000 at the MCG for the clash with cross city rivals the Renegades.
Earlier this year, the two met in the Big Bash final, with the Renegades coming out on top.
He said: “Another Roses clash. We obviously got up and about for the last one at Headingley, but to play in front of our home crowd will be pretty spectacular.
“To keep that winning momentum going will be key for us going through this tournament.
“The atmosphere is just as good as international cricket, and the Roses clash is something that’s quite special.
“I’ve been lucky enough to have been involved in plenty of them, and it’s nice to be involved on this side, the winning side.”
Comparing the Roses rivalry with that of the Stars v Renegades, Maxwell added: “We probably don’t have the history in the BBL. We’ve only had 10 seasons of it, and there’s a lot of decades of Lancashire v Yorkshire.
“The history is not something I fully understand, but when you’re involved you certainly want to win.
“There’s definitely an extra bit of feeling from the crowd towards the opposition.
“The Stars v Renegades rivalry is starting to build, and they’re certainly very enjoyable games to play in.
“We had 80,000 for a game, and if you had told me there was going to be that for a domestic game I would have laughed at you. But it’s amazing how many people get around it, and the games are starting to live up to it.”
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