Match Preview: Notts Outlaws vs Lancashire Lightning
The top two go head-to-head for the first time this season after last week's encounter at Liverpool was lost to the weather
This is a crucial fixture in Lancashire’s bid for Vitality Blast qualification from the North Group.
A top of the table clash, with both sides on eight points after five games, a Lightning victory would ensure they take a significant step towards sealing a return to the quarter-finals at the start of next month.
Both sides are unbeaten at the halfway stage of the group campaign, having won three and had two No Results. One of those rainy No Results was between the two sides at Liverpool last week.
Notts lead the table courtesy of a superior net run-rate. They beat Leicestershire at home by five wickets last Friday, the same day as Lancashire beat Derbyshire by eight wickets at Liverpool.
Liam Livingstone is in contention to make his first Vitality Blast appearance of the summer having returned from England white ball duty.
Livingstone has spent the last month or so as a reserve member of England squads for One-Day and T20 series against Ireland, Pakistan and Australia without actually playing a game.
It will be interesting to see where he slips into the batting order given the success Alex Davies and Keaton Jennings have had at the top of the order.
Elsewhere, the likes of Tom Bailey, Matthew Parkinson and Luke Wood will all return having been rested from the midweek Bob Willis Trophy clash with Derbyshire.
Notts have beaten Durham, Yorkshire and Leicestershire so far in the group, the latter two being at Trent Bridge.
The Outlaws are one of few counties who have continued to go down the overseas route following the challenges brought about by COVID-19, and they should field two tomorrow.
They are captained by experienced Australian all-rounder Dan Christian, a T20 specialist who is a fixture in yellow and green and led them to the Blast title in 2017.
Pakistan left-arm spinner Imad Wasim has also been re-employed having played seven times in Vitality Blast for them last year.
Wasim, a former league professional in Bolton, took 2/24 in last Friday’s win over Leicestershire at Trent Bridge.
Seamers Luke Fletcher and Jake Ball have been their standout performers so far with seven and six wickets respectively. Fletcher took five wickets in the win against Yorkshire on Bank Holiday Monday.
Joe Clarke has led the way with the bat, scoring 125 runs from three innings, with 100 of them coming in one innings against Durham.
With not a ball bowled at Liverpool last week, we have to go back to last year at Emirates Old Trafford when these two sides met in a thrilling encounter which Lancashire came out on top in.
Luke Wood impressed for the visitors in front of the Sky cameras, shortly before it was revealed he would be swapping Notts for Lancs ahead of this summer.
But the Lightning’s Australian superstar Glenn Maxwell was the standout performer.
Wood gave the visitors a flying start by bowling Alex Davies and Steven Croft in the first over of the game (2/2), but the Lightning recovered thanks to Maxwell and captain Dane Vilas, who shared 107 for the fifth wicket to advance from 35/4, eventually posting 151/6.
Maxwell showed all of his class and flair in smashing 73 off 46 balls, while Vilas expertly supported him with 46 off 36.
In reply, Notts fell only four runs short as this pulsating fixture went the way of the hosts.
Spin prospered, with Matthew Parkinson claiming three wickets and Liam Livingstone two, while seamers Richard Gleeson and James Faulkner also took two apiece as Notts were restricted to 148/9.
Maxwell took a record four outfield catches to seal the man-of-the-match.
WHAT THEY SAID
Red Rose captain Dane Vilas is relishing the clash between the North Group powerhouses.
Vilas says his players are in buoyant mood after some good form in the first half of the Blast and then the four-day victory over Derbyshire at Liverpool, albeit with a much-changed side.
“It’s a big game,” said the South African. “Unfortunately we missed the one at Liverpool against them, which got rained out.
“It’s always great to play against Notts. They’re a very good white ball side, and we know the challenges ahead, but we’re running high. We’ve had a good 10 days at Liverpool, and we’re looking forward to it.
“Trent Bridge is a great place to go. It’s always been a high-scoring ground, and hopefully it will be the same and we can come out on top.
“The guys are playing well, led by Keaton (Jennings) and Davo (Alex Davies). They have been fantastic up top.
“On top of that, some of the bowlers as well. Tom Bailey will be back. He’ll be fired up and ready to go. We’ll get Luke Wood back, and he’ll be excited to go up against his old boys.
“Hopefully we can keep the momentum going.”
Whoever wins this fixture will be red hot favourites to win the North Group, an achievement which would bring the prize of a home quarter-final tie on October 1 - an important factor in the bid for glory.
“It is big,” added Vilas. “The main job is to qualify, but then to get a home quarter-final.
“We had it last year and it didn’t work out. We had to play away. If we get it again, we’d look forward to playing at Emirates Old Trafford.”