Match Preview: Derbyshire Falcons vs Lancashire Lightning
The third game of this year's Vitality Blast comes against the Falcons on neutral turf at Emerald Headingley
What is that you say... we have to go to Yorkshire again?! Unprecedented times certainly calls for drastic action!
Lancashire face a televised away trip across the Pennines, to the home of their biggest rivals, to take on ‘hosts’ Derbyshire at Emerald Headingley. And on the back of two notable performances to start the North Group campaign, the Lightning do so in buoyant mood.
Dane Vilas's side beat Durham by 27 runs at Emirates Riverside on Thursday evening before getting themselves into a winning position against Leicestershire at the Fischer County Ground on Saturday before rain arrived to ruin the contest.
With a number of key components of the side unavailable due to England duty and injury, it has represented a particularly encouraging start to the county’s bid to repeat the 2015 title success at Edgbaston, with a Keaton Jennings century (Durham) and a Tom Bailey five-wicket haul (Leicestershire) the undoubted highlights.
But in Derbyshire they come up against a side in confident mood themselves. Top of the North Group in the Bob Willis Trophy with one round remaining - against the Red Rose at Liverpool next weekend - they also reached their maiden Finals Day last September.
Coached by former Lancashire all-rounder Dominic Cork in this format of the game alone, they were hoping to draw level with Lancashire on three points this afternoon at the time of writing. Having had a rained off clash against Leicester on Thursday, there are tackling Yorkshire at Headingley.
Tomorrow evening’s fixture is the second part of a Sky Sports televised double header, with Durham facing Leicestershire earlier in the day. The two fixtures - the Lightning’s is a Derby home game - are being played at Headingley for logistical reasons following complications brought about by the truncated season.
With both games being played on the same pitch, the pitch is likely to be on the slower side. But Dane Vilas and Glen Chapple have selected Matthew Parkinson, Tom Hartley and Steven Croft as spin options in both matches so far, so they are well placed in that regard.
There are no new injury concerns to deal with following the Leicester game.
Derbyshire completed the set last season by becoming the last of the 18 counties to qualify for a Finals Day, eventually beaten in the afternoon semi-final by champions Essex, who had beaten Lancashire in the last eight.
Led by Cork and captain Billy Godleman, their impressive opening batsman, the Falcons finished third in the North Group with seven wins from 14 games before winning an away quarter-final against Gloucestershire.
Cork and Mal Loye are part of their coaching team, while ex-Red Rose all-rounder Luis Reece’s move to the East Midlands from Emirates Old Trafford in 2016 has proved a productive one, both in red and white ball cricket.
Wicketkeeper-batsman Brooke Guest, who recently left Lancashire on loan ahead of a permanent move in the winter, will be unable to play in this fixture. Southport-born fast bowler Ben Aitchison’s first season with the county has been cut short by an ankle ligament injury.
Godleman and Wayne Madsen both went beyond 450 Vitality Blast runs last season, ably backed up by Reece and South African Leus du Plooy, who both topped 300.
West Indian fast bowler Ravi Rampaul led the way with 23 wickets, though the former international’s availability this season is in doubt due to COVID-19 complications.
Preston-born leg-spinner Matt Critchley is a danger with both bat and ball, as fellow all-rounder Fynn Hudson-Prentice will be.
Derbyshire took the honours last season with an 11-run win at Emirates Old Trafford following a rain-forced abandonment at the Incora County Ground.
The late August success for the Falcons was one of only two group defeats for the Lightning.
Half-centuries for Billy Godleman (57) and Wayne Madsen (69) - they shared 112 for the second wicket - underpinned a commanding score of 162/3, including wickets for spinners Steven Croft, Glenn Maxwell and Matthew Parkinson.
The hosts lost Alex Davies for a two-ball duck and later slipped to 33-3. But Liam Livingstone’s 58 off 36 balls kept Lancashire alive.
Unfortunately, though, his departure to medium pacer Alex Hughes - 99-4 in the 13th over - sparked somewhat of a collapse which proved too hard to come back from.
They slipped from 99-3 to 147/8 in the 19th over, with Rampaul’s excellent 3-19 from four overs leading the way. Aside from Livingstone, Keaton Jennings (21) was the only other Lightning batsman to pass 20.
WHAT THEY SAID
We said earlier that Keaton Jennings’ century at Durham and Tom Bailey’s five-for at Leicester have been the highlights of the early stages of Lancashire’s Blast campaign.
Well, the fielding at Leicester was pretty darn special too.
Dane Vilas took three ‘wow’ catches, as did Bailey himself, diving at cover.
“We were good in the first game, but there were a few little things we tried to iron out in a meeting,” said the latter. “Fielding was one of those, and we fielded so well as a group (at Leicester). And we haven’t had a white ball practice session. It’s literally been red ball into white ball.”
While Bailey believes the energy brought by youth in this much changed Lightning side indicates good times ahead in this format, it is captain fantastic Vilas who is setting the standard.
“Dane (Vilas) is superman,” continued Bailey. “For a 35-year-old to throw himself around in the field like that, it’s great to see.
“It is (a changed team), but the youngsters have brought that vibrant feel to it, and it’s such an exciting time for Lancashire Cricket.”
Bailey, 29, claimed 5/17 in four overs to restrict the Foxes to 150/9 in only his 15th career appearance in this format.
And he revealed: "I've not played white ball cricket in three years, and I didn't think I was going to play this year either.
“We're such a strong white ball side, it's always going to be tough to get in. And I've had to wait in the wings. So it's nice to have an opportunity, and I've taken it with both hands.”