Match Preview: Lancashire Lightning v Worcestershire Rapids
Lancashire Lightning host Worcetsershire Rapids in the Vitality Blast
Vitality Blast, North Group
Thursday July 1, 6.30pm
Emirates Old Trafford
It is getting down to crunch time for Lancashire.
The general view is that seven wins is usually enough to secure qualification for the quarter-finals with a top four finish in the group stage.
The Lightning currently have three wins from nine games - eight points - and sit sixth in the table.
It may be that four wins from their remaining five games is needed to have a shot at second Blast title in six years.
Opponents Worcestershire are two points clear of the Red Rose with four wins from their nine outings, including a low-scoring victory in the reverse fixture at New Road a couple of Sundays back.
Like Lancashire, the Rapids are one-time previous winners of the Blast having clinched the title in 2018.
Both sides continue to be without their England players. Liam Livingstone is on one-day international duty, while Jos Buttler is recovering from the calf injury he sustained during the early stages of the T20 series with Sri Lanka.
For Worcestershire, their regular Blast captain Moeen Ali is, like Livingstone, also in England’s ODI squad.
It has been a head-scratching campaign for Worcestershire.
There have been some impressive performances - claiming a home tie from the jaws of defeat on the opening day against champions Nottinghamshire and beating Lancashire and Durham for example.
There have also been some horrible defeats - losing by 10 wickets at Notts having only posted 86-8 in their 20 overs and then losing at Yorkshire when they had the hosts at 15-4 in the early stages of the games.
But they remain firmly in the mix for the knockout stages.
The two aforementioned defeats came on successive evenings last week. But they put those behind them to claim back-to-back home wins over Durham and Leicestershire on Friday and Sunday.
Captained by wicketkeeper-batsman Ben Cox in the absence of Moeen Ali, the Rapids are being led by Brett D’Oliveira with the bat (247 runs) and Australian overseas seamer Ben Dwarshuis with the ball (10 wickets).
While fellow seamer Charlie Morris has one more wicket than left-armer Dwarshuis, his economy rate is more than 10 runs per over. Dwarshuis has been slightly more frugal, though is still going at over eights.
Young quick Dillon Pennington is one to watch.
Against Yorkshire last week, he claimed four wickets in his first two overs, including his first being a triple wicket maiden. Unfortunately for him, the Vikings bounced back to win at Headingley.
Joining Australian Dwarshuis as overseas is veteran New Zealand leg-spinner Ish Sodhi. He is yet to fire with only five wickets from eight appearances.
On the way to winning the Blast in 2018, the Rapids beat Lancashire in the semi-final at Edgbaston.
Jos Buttler’s 55 off 46 balls was unable to help Lancashire to victory in a game which saw the visitors post only 132-4 batting first at New Road.
A slow pitch, maybe, but the Lightning were below par with a total including only two other players reaching 20 in Liam Livingstone (25) and Dane Vilas (20 not out).
Nobody was able to score at a rate quick enough to challenge the Rapids after captain Vilas had earlier elected to bat on Sunday June 13.
Seamer Charlie Morris finished with 2-25 from four overs, including that of Buttler.
In reply, the Rapids were exactly that. They all but ended Lightning hopes inside nine overs thanks to a 79-run opening partnership between Riki Wessels, who made 40 and Brett D’Oliveira. He went on to finish 61 not out out off 45 balls as the win was secured with 16 balls to spare.
Matthew Parkinson claimed two consolatory wickets for Lancashire.
The Lightning had won their opening two games, and this was their first defeat. In the six games since that fixture at New Road, Vilas and co have only won once - away at Derbyshire.
What they said:
Steven Croft believes there were encouraging signs for the Lightning from Saturday’s defeat against champions Nottinghamshire.
Croft pointed to improvements in their performance against the high-flying Outlaws at Trent Bridge, less than 24 hours after a disappointing display against Northamptonshire at Wantage Road.
Lancashire were chasing 174 against Notts following an Alex Hales unbeaten century and replied to 166-7. Against the Steelbacks, they had stuttered to only 130-7 batting first and losing by seven wickets.
“You don’t like losing,” said former captain Croft.
“But, after the performance against Northants - the manner of that wasn’t what we wanted, against Notts we were aggressive with bat and ball and fielded well.
“So, although we lost, it was better.
“The difference between the teams was Alex Hales, really.
“In T20, you don’t usually get someone staying around. And he kept the board ticking all the way through, which was something we didn’t have.
“We haven’t hit top gear yet, and there is obviously room for improvement. But at Notts, we were brave all the way through. If you keep putting in performances like that, we can turn it round.”
Lancashire’s women are in friendly action against Ireland’s women in a T20 fixture, starting at 2.30pm.
Former Lancashire County Championship winner Kyle Hogg, now the Red Rose’s girls’ county age-group performance manager, will be leading Lancashire as their coach.