Match Preview: Durham vs Lancashire Lightning
Vitality Blast 2020 kicks off at Emirates Riverside tomorrow as Lancashire Lightning go in search of a second T20 crown, starting at Durham
Lancashire’s quest for a second Vitality Blast title begins against a county they have an excellent record against.
Since the inception of the English domestic competition, Durham have only beaten the Lightning on seven occasions, including only twice at Emirates Riverside.
It is quite ironic that Lancashire’s campaign ended at the quarter-final stage last year at Emirates Riverside, where - for logistical reasons - they played against eventual champions Essex Eagles and were beaten in a thriller.
But it is a venue which has otherwise been very kind to them. They have not lost a T20 against Durham there since 2011, winning in the North East every year since 2013. In 2012, the game finished tied.
In all, Lancashire - runaway winners of last season’s North Group - have beaten Durham 21 times in T20 cricket and would love to extend that record and get off to a flyer this week.
This will be the first of 10 group games up until Sunday September 20.
The 18 counties have been split into the same three regionalised groups of six as the four-day Bob Willis Trophy.
The quarter-finals will then be played on Thursday 1 October ahead of Finals Day at Edgbaston on Saturday 3 October. Both of those knockout dates have reserve days.
This fixture has been rescheduled from 6.30pm to 2.30pm and will be freely available on our new and improved live stream.
Matthew Parkinson is fit for selection having recovered from the ankle injury which has prevented him from playing any cricket so far this summer.
The Red Rose will, however, be without Liam Livingstone and Saqib Mahmood, who are both on international duty. Mahmood is in the main squad for the three-match T20 series against Pakistan at Emirates Old Trafford, while Livingstone is a reserve.
Jos Buttler is being rested after playing in each of England’s six summer Test Matches against the West Indies and Pakistan, while Jimmy Anderson’s unavailability is for the same reason.
Luke Wood is unavailable having sustained a hamstring injury in the four-day draw against his former county Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge earlier this month, while Richard Gleeson and Graham Onions have back injuries.
While Lancashire will be without overseas duo James Faulkner and Glenn Maxwell as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, Durham are missing fellow Australian Cameron Bancroft for the same reason.
Durham are also without their England internationals Ben Stokes and Mark Wood, while winter signing Farhaan Behardien has not featured yet this summer and looks unlikely to be available for the game, too.
Keaton Jennings was in the Durham team when they qualified for their only Finals Day in 2016. That day they were beaten by Northamptonshire, despite Jennings scoring a Finals Day best 88 off 58 balls.
Last season, Durham won five of their 14 games and finished sixth in the nine-team North Division - two places outside the top four, who all reached the quarter-finals. They were beaten twice by the Lightning.
Durham last reached the quarter-finals in 2018 when they won nine of 14 group games only to be beaten by Sussex at home in the last eight.
Durham’s batting line-up will much changed from last year given D’Arcy Short and fellow Australian Peter Handscomb scored nearly 700 runs and are no longer with the county.
The likes of hard-hitting opener Scott Steel, new South African signing David Bedingham, Alex Lees and Graham Clark - Jordan’s brother - will need to step up.
In terms of their bowling line-up, they have plenty of young up and comers to keep an eye on. Seamer Matty Potts was their leading Blast wicket-taker with 17 last year, while Brydon Carse has been on England’s radar. He was in their limited overs training camp prior to the start of cricket this summer.
Experienced Australian Nathan Rimmington is available, while all-rounders Ben Raine and Paul Coughlin will be key contributors with ball and down the order with the bat.
Irish wicketkeeper Stuart Poynter captained them in last year’s Blast.
The Lightning won last year’s Emirates Old Trafford meeting by 72 runs in late July before securing another comfortable win, by five wickets, at Emirates Riverside at the start of August.
Having elected to bat Durham were bowled out for 139, with Alex Lees’ 39 in the middle order his side’s top score as six wickets fell to spin.
Matthew Parkinson claimed 4-30 from four overs, while Liam Livingstone claimed 2-21 from three overs as he embarked upon a memorable personal display.
Opening the batting, Livingstone’s 70 off 48 balls with three sixes included put the Red Rose into an unassailable position.
He shared 57 with Alex Davies (24) in six overs for the first wicket before captain Dane Vilas matched Davies with an unbeaten 24 to provide important support as the victory was secured with seven balls to spare.
This was Lancashire’s fourth win in the first six North Group matches, the other two being abandoned fixtures. They went on to top the group by four points.
WHAT THEY SAID:
Alex Davies has been reflecting on his career development in Twenty20 cricket as the start of this season’s Blast looms large.
Davies was part of Lancashire’s Blast-winning team at Edgbaston in 2015 when, in the final, he top-scored with a 26-ball 47 in victory over Northamptonshire.
That year was his second in Lancashire’s T20 side, and he was aged 21. Now, five years on, the 26-year-old has made 53 career appearances, scoring 1,140 runs at an average of 28.50.
He has formed a dangerous opening partnership with Liam Livingstone, the latter who won’t play tomorrow due to England commitments. That may open the door for the likes of Josh Bohannon or Keaton Jennings to fill that role.
“I think I’m a lot better player than I was in 2015, even though I did well in the final,” said Davies.
“The main thing that has changed is my role. Myself and Liam are established at the top now, and even though I sometimes get off to the odd flyer, it helps if he goes berserk and I’m the one playing, as he calls them, the proper shots.
“My role in 2015 was to get off to a flyer. And with Liam leaving, I might have to take his role for a few games.
“I am a different player, but it all depends on what the team needs.
“We’re very different to bowl at. Me being slightly shorter in height, I hit a bit squarer, Liam just stands up and bashes it straighter.”
Davies, dogged by a finger injury in recent seasons, has regained the wicketkeeping gloves from captain Dane Vilas this summer, and is loving that side of his game.
“It’s been awesome,” he added. “I was dying to keep last year, but I broke my finger early in the year. It was niggling me all year.
“If anything’s helped that, it was lockdown - not catching balls for months on end. When I came back to training, I was pain free.
“Sam Byrne (Lancashire’s physio) has worked a lot on splints I can wear on my fingers whilst keeping. Thankfully they’re working.”