Match Preview: Lancashire Lightning vs Derbyshire Falcons
Lancashire Lightning v Derbyshire Falcons
Vitality Blast, North Group
Wednesday June 9, 2021, 2.30pm
Emirates Old Trafford
Lancashire’s bid for a second Blast title will begin tomorrow afternoon with England superstar Jos Buttler for company.
Buttler is available for the opening six Blast games before resuming international duty later this month, and facing the Falcons will mark his first appearance in Red Rose colours since Finals Day in September 2018 when the county lost to Worcestershire in the semi-final.
Glen Chapple and Dane Vilas have power to burn in their top order, with Alex Davies, Liam Livingstone, Buttler and New Zealand overseas batsman Finn Allen all candidates to open the batting.
The Lightning face a Falcons side who reached Finals Day for the first and only time to date in 2019. They were beaten semi-finalists by champions Essex on that occasion.
Wellington batsman Finn Allen, available for at least the entire group stage, will make his first-team debut for Lancashire having warmed up in the second team last week.
This, as previously stated, is the first of Buttler’s half dozen Blast appearances before England’s limited overs summer programme begins against Sri Lanka in T20s on June 23.
In those six games, only this game and Thursday’s clash with Leicestershire are home games, with Worcestershire, Derbyshire, Durham and Birmingham all on the road before he departs on June 18.
There is also positive news in the form of Richard Gleeson’s impending return from a long-term back stress fracture. He could potentially be involved for this fixture.
Saqib Mahmood misses out with an abdominal strain.
Derbyshire are coached by former Lightning all-rounder Dominic Cork, the only man to take a T20 hat-trick for the county against Notts at Old Trafford in 2004.
They have signed overseas Logan van Beek for this competition.
Fast bowler van Beek took nine wickets for the Falcons on their way to Finals Day in 2019, and the New Zealand-born Dutch international only last week re-signed at the Incora County Ground.
Derby were due to field giant Australian quick Billy Stanlake in this competition, but he suffered a back stress fracture playing Championship cricket last month and has had to return home.
They had also signed another Aussie in hard-hitting wicketkeeper batsman Ben McDermott. He had arrived and was set to debut in this match. But this morning was called up by Australia for forthcoming limited overs tours to West Indies and Bangladesh. Therefore, he has to depart England immediately.
Veteran batsman Wayne Madsen is arguably their gun domestic player in this format, and he will represent the Old Trafford based Manchester Originals in the forthcoming Hundred.
But the likes of top order batters Billy Godleman (captain), Luis Reece and Leus du Plooy must be respected.
Lancashire-born all-rounder Matt Critchley was their leading wicket-taker in last season’s Blast, but with only four with his leg-spinners.
Derbyshire won one of only 10 games last year and finished bottom of the North Group. Their bowling must be better if they are to make significant improvements on that form.
Lancashire did the double over Derbyshire last summer on the way to second place in the North Group (five wins from 10 games).
The Lightning won the televised ‘away’ game at Emerald Headingley in late August, a fixture played in Leeds for operational reasons, by four runs as they defended a 179 target. Alex Davies made 82 and Steven Croft took two wickets.
Then, at Liverpool a few days later, they cantered to an eight-wicket win chasing only 99 on a spinning pitch.
Derbyshire, having been inserted, stumbled their way to 98-7.
Tom Bailey claimed 2-13 from three overs supplemented by other miserly spells from the likes of Tom Hartley, Danny Lamb and Stephen Parry, who all claimed a wicket apiece.
Keaton Jennings then made 49 not out at the top of the order off 51 balls to direct a calm and composed chase which had got off to a fine start with a 61 stand inside 11 overs between himself and Davies (36).
The Lightning won with 16 balls to spare.
What they said:
Finn Allen got to spend a fair bit of time with Glenn Maxwell at the IPL recently and knew pretty quickly that joining Lancashire for the Blast was the right move.
Maxwell was the Red Rose’s popular overseas player in 2019 and was due to return last summer but for Coronavirus complications.
This season, it is New Zealander Allen’s turn to entertain the Lancashire faithful with his exciting brand of batting.
The pair were team-mates at Royal Challengers Bangalore before the IPL was cut short, and Allen said: “I can tell you Maxi enjoyed it here because he spent the whole IPL wearing his Red Rose hat!
“He told me what the guys were like and the experience he had.
“He loved it and didn’t have a bad word to say.”
Allen is a tall Kiwi batsman who has designs on opening during his spell with the Lightning.
He arrives in the North West on the back of some standout performances for Wellington and New Zealand.
He did not actually play at the IPL, with his last competitive appearance coming for New Zealand against Bangladesh when he scored 71 in a T20 on April 1.
Still, he was able to learn from training at the IPL alongside team-mates such as Maxwell, AB De Villiers and Virat Kohli. What an opportunity, hey!
Allen arrived at Emirates Old Trafford during the Roses Championship win and watched the closing stages on his Hilton Garden Inn balcony whilst quarantining.
“It looked like a pretty hard fought day of four-day cricket, and it was good to see the lads get up after all the hard work,” he said before talking through his own style of play.
“My brand of cricket is an aggressive one. I like to take the attack to the bowlers and put them under pressure.
“What I’m figuring out now is how I can do that for longer and take more calculated risks.
“I like to hit to all parts of the ground and manoeuvre the fielders to create gaps. I’d say thinking one step ahead.
“I’m hoping to be tested and to learn whilst here. But to help Lancashire lift that trophy up at the end of the tournament would be awesome.”
Allen has previous experience of English conditions having played a summer as an MCC Young Cricketer in 2017.
While taking on pace would arguably be his forte, he is not afraid of a new challenge posed by home conditions with Lancashire.
“I have heard that Emirates Old Trafford does tend to spin, especially later on when the pitches get used,” he said.
“It doesn’t happen a lot in the Super Smash, but I still back myself. My strike rate is a little lower against spin, but I still see myself as a good player against spin.”
As he says, Allen has learnt from the likes of De Villiers and Maxwell in recent months and will also be picking the brains of Jos Buttler during their brief time together at the start of the tournament.
It is not out of the question that they could open the batting together. And there is every chance he could outscore Buttler if that were the case.
But wherever he bats, this 22-year-old will be fun to watch.