Match Preview: Steelbacks vs Lightning
Lancashire travel to Wantage Road aiming to bounce back from Sunday's first defeat of this season's Vitality Blast
Lancashire head into their clash with the Steelbacks looking to do something which they haven’t previously had to in this summer’s Blast - bounce back from a defeat.
The Lightning were beaten by Birmingham Bears at Edgbaston on Sunday, by 15 runs as they chased a 180 target.
A disappointment? Yes, of course. But it can be used a positive for a buoyant group of players who remain on course for the quarter-finals and have a stranglehold on top spot in the North Group having won five of nine games with three washed out.
Dane Vilas and co hold a three-point lead over second-placed Nottinghamshire Outlaws and can use the Bears loss as an opportunity to reset ahead of the business end of the competition and work on the areas of their game they believe need improving.
A win for Northants - what would be their third from nine - could take them into the top four qualifying places for the quarter-finals.
It will be interesting to see whether coach Glen Chapple and captain Dane Vilas opt for change after a defeat or whether they stick with the same side which has served them so well over the last two or three weeks.
Fast bowler Nathan Buck could face his former county having played five games in the Blast so far, but another ex-Lightning player Luke Procter is yet to feature in this year’s competition, instead limited to second-team cricket.
Northants are two-time winners of the Blast, in 2013 and 2016. They were also 2015 runners-up, beaten by Lancashire in the final at Edgbaston.
Unfortunately for them, since 2016 they have failed to get out of the group in the last two seasons and their hopes of doing so this year are hanging in the balance after a mixed start to the campaign.
They have so far won two, lost three and had three No Results from their eight fixtures.
The latest No Result came against reigning champions Worcestershire at New Road on Sunday. In fact, their last two matches have been rained off.
The Steelbacks have beaten Birmingham and Durham, both at home, so it is clear they will be a dangerous opponent on their home patch.
Earlier this season, long-standing captain Alex Wakely stepped down, but he is still a presence in their top order with the bat.
The leadership duties in the Blast have been handed over to another batsman, Josh Cobb.
Northants’ two overseas players are all-rounders Dwaine Pretorius and Faheem Ashraf from South Africa and Pakistan. Both are predominantly seam bowlers with the ability to clear the ropes down the order.
Run-scoring has been a problem for the Steelbacks, with no batsman yet to pass the 140-run mark.
Seamer Ben Sanderson is their leading wicket-taker with 10, while left-arm spinner Graeme White has seven to his name. He has had success against Lancashire before.
There have only been four previous meetings between these two sides at Wantage Road in the history of T20, with the counties separated into different groups for the early stages of the Blast, which started in 2003.
Northants have won three of those, with Lancashire’s only win coming in 2011 en-route to a semi-final finish.
The Steelbacks have beaten Lancashire on home territory in 2010, 2015 and 2017.
On the flipside, the Lightning are unbeaten in four meetings at Emirates Old Trafford, plus a No Result. They also won that 2015 final at Edgbaston.
Last season saw Lancashire won by eight wickets at Old Trafford chasing only 124 following a spin dominated bowling performance restricted the visitors to 123-9.
Liam Livingstone, Matthew Parkinson and Stephen Parry all struck twice before Alex Davies underpinned a routine chase, achieved with 23 balls to spare, by hitting eight fours and a six in 64 not out off 43 balls.
The Red Rose went on to reach the semi-finals, while the Steelbacks finished bottom of the North Group table with only two wins from their 14 games.
WHAT THEY SAID
Glen Chapple is confident Lancashire will get back on the horse quickly after their first defeat at Birmingham.
The coach was disappointed but not downbeat after Sunday’s loss at Edgbaston and is looking forward to two games in three days this week.
After tomorrow’s trip to Northants, they return to Emirates Old Trafford on Friday night to tackle Birmingham again.
“I think with both bat and ball we were definitely under par compared to how we like to think we can play,” said Chapple. “It’s possibly a wake-up call.
“The lads will know it. They’re honest. They will know we didn’t play to the same levels we have been doing.
“We’ve just got to make sure we get back to it for the next few games.
“Losing’s inevitable at some point with so many games, but we can pick out areas where we know we can be better.
“It shouldn’t be a negative because we’ve set very high standards and have played fantastic cricket.
“There are plenty more games coming up.
“We’re still in a great position, and we’d have taken this at the start of the competition. But we can’t take anything for granted and have to continue playing good cricket.”
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