Match Preview: Leicestershire Foxes vs Lancashire Lightning
Lancashire are on the road again for the second Vitality Blast match of the season, this time travelling to take on the Foxes in Leicester
Lancashire will go in search of back-to-back victories to begin their North Group campaign when they travel to the East Midlands tomorrow (2:00pm start).
The Lightning’s commanding 27-run victory over Durham yesterday afternoon, inspired by a Keaton Jennings century, started a three-game road trip to open this competition, also taking in Emerald Headingley on Monday to tackle ‘hosts’ Derbyshire in a televised fixture.
Leicester, meanwhile, had their ‘away’ game against Derbyshire washed out at their Grace Road home yesterday.
In fact, Lancashire were the only team in the country able to force a result, with the other six all rained affected.
Jennings (108) and Alex Davies (65) shared a record-breaking opening partnership of 170 against Durham before Tom Bailey and Matthew Parkinson claimed two wickets apiece in a routine defence.
Jennings’ 108 represented Lancashire’s highest individual score in their T20 history, while the 170 stand was also the county’s best ever.
Glen Chapple and Dane Vilas will have to decide whether or not to stick with a winning team on a smaller Grace Road ground, especially straight.
But there are no new injury or availability concerns to deal with after the Durham victory.
A victory would also give Lancashire a bit of revenge over the Foxes after the opening round Bob Willis Trophy four-day defeat against them at New Road earlier this month.
One of their heroes that day, Ben Slater, has returned to parent county Nottinghamshire, something the Red Rose will be delighted about given he has scored centuries against them for Leicester and Notts this summer.
South African batsman Colin Ackermann - he also bowls very handy off-spinners - will captain the side in the Blast, as he has done in four-day cricket. Last year he took world record bowling figures in T20 cricket, taking 7/18 against Birmingham Bears.
Coach Paul Nixon has recruited hard-hitting Irish batsman Gareth Delany on an overseas deal, replacing South African Janneman Malan after his deal was cancelled as a result of Coronavirus complications.
Former Red Rose seamer Gavin Griffiths, a hero at Blast Finals Day in 2015, will be a key figure for the Foxes this summer.
Here is a county who won the Blast in 2004, 2006 and 2011, but they have struggled to make an impression since - something which will frustrate Nixon, a man integral to those successes as a player.
Last season, they finished bottom of the nine-team North Group with only four wins from 14 matches.
Ackermann finished as their leading run-scorer last season with 342 runs and their joint leading wicket-taker with 12 alongside Callum Parkinson, Matthew’s left-arm spinning twin brother. Their meeting - not the first between the two - will provide a fascinating sub plot.
Lancashire had already qualified for the quarter-finals ahead of their final group game at Emirates OId Trafford, late last August.
But they were in no mood to take their foot off the gas, winning a low-scoring affair by five wickets as they chased down 143 with eight balls to spare.
The visitors, who elected to bat, made a bright start - 44-0 in the fifth, underpinned by Mark Cosgrove’s innings high score of 39 off 19 balls.
But pace off did the trick for the Lightning, as it so often does, with Matthew Parkinson striking twice and Steven Croft, James Faulkner and Glenn Maxwell once apiece.
Leicester, 77-2 in the 10th over, were restricted to 142-9 before Lancashire made a composed response.
Alex Davies (39) and Liam Livingstone (28) shared 54 in 5.1 overs for the first wicket before Maxwell chipped in with an unbeaten 29.
Lancashire had a minor scare at 98/4 in the 12th over, but it was only a minor skirmish with trouble before they eased to an eighth win from 14 matches, topping the North Group table.
WHAT THEY SAID
Keaton Jennings believes Lancashire’s win at Durham will give the younger players in their team much needed confidence as the county bid for a second Blast title.
Left-arm spinner Tom Hartley debuted at the Riverside in this format, while the likes of Liam Hurt, Josh Bohannon, Rob Jones and Danny Lamb are all in the early stages of their T20 careers.
“It’s important for some young guys - and I say young in terms of the amount of cricket they’ve played - to get games under their belts, and positive games.
“Breeding that winning culture and that environment is crucial. Winning is a skill.
“Hopefully we can run with this.
“The peaks and troughs of the season will happen, but we need to make sure we peak at the right time as well.”
On the return of cricket this summer, Jennings added: “I remember sitting in my lounge in April, May and June with it 95 degrees and nowhere to go.
“So to be playing cricket is fantastic, and to be winning games is even better. Hopefully we carry on.”