Match Preview: Rapids vs Lightning
First travel to second in the North Group as the top two collide at Blackfinch New Road
Group leaders Lancashire have qualified for the quarter-finals with three games to spare.
The Red Rose will play in the last eight early next month as they look to claim their second Blast title, with last night’s set of results elsewhere in the North confirming their qualification whilst they had their feet up.
This is a clash between top and second in the North, with the Rapids the defending champions. Beating them for the second time in the campaign would be some achievement for the rampant Red Rose.
Buoyed by their Championship win against Glamorgan at Colwyn Bay, which all but secures promotion, Dane Vilas and co will now put all their efforts into maintaining their early Blast momentum.
Before their next four-day fixture, against Derbyshire at Emirates Old Trafford (September 10-13), they will play their final three group games and the quarter-final.
The Rapids have not been as dominant in the group stages as they were last year, but they remain on course for the last eight and will be a very dangerous outfit having also won six of their 11 games. Lancashire are two points ahead of them courtesy of two more No Results.
Glenn Maxwell sat out the win over Northamptonshire at Wantage Road a week ago on Wednesday with a tight hamstring, but he returned to action in that three-day win over Glamorgan in North Wales.
That means he should be back in the side tomorrow, the first of two Vitality Blast fixtures in as many days, with Derbyshire the visitors to Emirates Old Trafford on Bank Holiday Monday.
Danny Lamb replaced Maxwell in the side for the Northants clash, and he claimed six wickets in the match against Glamorgan with his seamers, so he is pressing to retain his place in first-team colours, albeit it a different format.
Worcestershire were rewarded for white ball consistency with a maiden Vitality Blast title last September, beating Sussex in the final at Edgbaston.
They were captained by Moeen Ali, who is back in their side having been left out of England’s Ashes team and is leading them again.
Martin Guptill is opening the batting and has been joined as overseas by fellow New Zealand batsman Hamish Rutherford, who has recently replaced Australian Callum Ferguson.
Moeen struck a thumping unbeaten 85 in last night’s win over Midlands rivals Birmingham Bears at Edgbaston chasing 185, achieve by nine wickets with eight balls to spare.
Dynamic opener Riki Wessels also smashed 65 not out after the wickets had been shared around.
Worcester, despite the presence of Moeen in their line-up with his off-spinners, largely rely on pace through the likes of Wayne Parnell, Dillon Pennington, Pat Brown and Ed Barnard.
An expert bowling display and some brief Jos Buttler-esque fireworks from Liam Livingstone led unbeaten Lancashire to a thumping 21-run win on Duckworth Lewis Stern over the defending champions at Emirates Old Trafford in late July.
Livingstone returned 3-21 from four overs of leg-spin as pace off largely did the trick for the Lightning on a used hybrid pitch, with the Rapids restricted to 130-9 having elected to bat in a repeat of last year’s semi-final.
On the night Lancashire announced that England World Cup winner Buttler had signed a new three-year contract with the county, Livingstone - cut from the same cloth with the bat - scooped Wayne Parnell for two sixes in a 14-ball 21 as the Lightning got off to a flyer at 38-1 after four overs in pursuit.
Rain later halted proceedings at 71-1 after nine overs, including Alex Davies’ unbeaten 29.
It was Lancashire’s third defeat added to a No Result as they made an unbeaten start to the campaign.
WHAT THEY SAID:
Liam Livingstone has hailed the influence of overseas Australian duo Glenn Maxwell and James Faulkner on Lancashire’s Blast campaign, and not just on the field.
The all-round pair have been excellent for the Lightning en-route to the quarter-finals.
Maxwell has hit three fifties in a haul of 242 runs from five innings, while Faulkner has taken 10 wickets with his smorgasbord seamers.
“You can’t really buy the experience and the will to win that we’ve got with Maxi and Jimmy,” said Livingstone. “They set a great example.”
Faulkner played alongside Livingstone in 2015 when the Lightning won the Blast, their only title to date.
But as the Red Rose get closer and closer to Edgbaston, the comparisons between that group of players and this become more relevant.
“They’re certainly similar in the way we set up,” said Livingstone.
“We obviously had Stephen Parry and Arron Lilley back then and our seamers like we do this year.
“The good thing we’ve got this year is you look around the dressing room and there’s 11 lads who can win a game of cricket from anywhere.
“It’s a great thing to have, knowing you can play so freely and the lads will do the job behind you if you don’t.
“Look back at 2015, the likes of myself and Al Davies were in our first season. Now we have someone like Bosh (Josh Bohannon) in his first.
“Hopefully we can keep playing some good cricket, and hopefully we do replicate 2015.”
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.