Match Preview: Lancashire vs Sussex
Lancashire kick off the 2021 campaign at home to Sussex in Group Three of the LV= Insurance County Championship
LV= Insurance County Championship, Group Three
Thursday April 8 - Sunday April 11, 2021, 11am
Emirates Old Trafford
Championship title challengers and great rivals in the mid-noughties, these two famous old counties meet again with exactly the same goal.
Lancashire versus Sussex clashes have been few and far between in recent years, which adds to the excitement for this opening round affair switched to Emirates Old Trafford at the last minute due to a Daddy Long Legs infestation on the outfield at Hove. The return fixture on the South Coast will instead be later this month.
While Lancashire’s development has been stronger in four-day cricket in recent years, Sussex have some exciting up and comers at their disposal, who should not be underestimated.
The Red Rose start 2021 amongst the favourites for success and will hope for a strong campaign opener against a Sussex side under new management.
Of course, it is 10 years since Lancashire last won the County Championship. And that glorious summer of 2011 started with a home win against who? Sussex at Liverpool. Fingers crossed, a good omen.
Luke Wells misses out on an immediate meeting with the county he left last season having sustained a hamstring injury during winter training.
Lancashire’s new batting signing says he is “95 percent there”, so hopefully his return comes in time for him to face Sussex at Hove later this month.
Another Luke, Wood, missed last week’s final pre-season friendly against Derbyshire due to a minor knee strain. But the left-arm seamer has recovered and will be in contention this week.
Richard Gleeson’s recovery from a stress fracture in his back, suffered last summer, continues to be monitored by the county’s medical team.
Jimmy Anderson will not be available for this game on ECB orders, with his return to county action likely to be against Kent at Canterbury in the third round (April 22-25). That is the game earmarked as Australian seamer Jackson Bird’s debut.
Sussex finished last season bottom of the South Group in the Bob Willis Trophy and were then beaten by Lancashire in the Vitality Blast quarter-finals. Safe to say, it was a frustrating end to Jason Gillespie’s three-year coaching tenure.
He has been replaced by former England leg-spinner Ian Salisbury, who will be assisted by ex-seamer James Kirtley.
Had this season started under a two-divisional structure, Sussex would be in Division Two, with their last success coming with back-to-back Championship titles in 2006 and 2007. Lancashire finished second and third in those summers.
Captained by wicketkeeper batsman Ben Brown, a University buddy of Dane Vilas’s, they have employed two batting overseas players. South African Stiaan van Zyl has switched from a Kolpak player, and starts the season, while Australian Travis Head joins from the end of April.
New ball seamer Ollie Robinson is on the fringes of England’s Test plans, and was in squads last summer, while Phil Salt (290 runs) and Irish off-spinner Jack Carson (15 wickets) led the way for them in the shortened 2020 BW Trophy.
The two sides met only once in the 2019 County Championship, Lancashire’s promotion year from Division Two.
And the Red Rose came out on top in a mid-July clash at Emirates Old Trafford, winning by an innings and 51 runs on the way to the title.
Spinners Matt Parkinson, with a superb 6-23, and Glenn Maxwell (4-41) bowled Sussex, who elected to bat, out for just 127.
Half-centuries for Keaton Jennings, Alex Davies, Maxwell and Rob Jones then supported Dane Vilas, who made 132 not out in 494-6 declared.
In reply, talented Bermuda-born left-hander Delray Rawlins hit 100. But Sussex were bowled out for 316, including 4-142 for Parkinson, to slip to a heavy defeat inside three days.
What they said
Captain Dane Vilas is hoping Lancashire can take advantage of back-to-back home games to start the campaign, with Northamptonshire also visiting Emirates Old Trafford next week.
Vilas says pre-season preparations have been excellent, despite certain Covid restrictions, admitting: “We’re as strong and as fit as we’ve ever been.
Lancashire and Roses rivals Yorkshire start the summer as the favourites to qualify out of the Championship Group Three and into the season-ending top group.
The top six teams will then fight it out for the Championship title and the right to play in the Bob Willis Trophy Lord’s final at the end of the summer.
“It’s always good to be back here,” said Vilas. “And we missed it a lot last year given we weren’t able to play as much cricket as we wanted at Emirates Old Trafford.
“We love playing here, so hopefully they are two good games at the start.”
He added: “We always want to compete in every format we play in. But this is the real important competition for us, and the guys are excited and keen to do well in it.
“We want to do as well as we can, and realistically we have a good chance. But it’s going to be tough because we have a couple of good teams in our group.
“Every player will tell you that this is the hardest competition to win or do well in.
“You have to play well for six months to do that. If you look back at the end of the summer and know that you’ve put a good stint in and you’re up there, it’s hugely rewarding and satisfactory.
“That’s the target for us, but we’re a long way away from that.
“First of all, we have five weeks of hard cricket to contend with.”
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