Match Preview: Lancashire Lightning vs Northants Steelbacks
Lancashire Lightning v Northamptonshire Steelbacks
Vitality Blast, North Group
Friday July 9, 6.30pm
Emirates Old Trafford
Lancashire are targeting three wins from their remaining three games to secure quarter-final qualification in the Blast after a frustrating campaign so far.
But all three are at Emirates Old Trafford, where they hold an excellent historical record in this competition. Plus, they play two of the teams currently above them in the table.
After tomorrow’s clash with the Steelbacks, they face Durham and Yorkshire - two sides above the Lightning in the North Group table.
Plenty of work to do, clearly, but a top four finish is by no means out of the question for a side who are just a point outside the qualifying places in sixth.
Like Lancashire, Northants have also won four of their 11 games so far, but they are a point behind owing to the former’s home tie against Nottinghamshire.
Team news: Matthew Parkinson and Saqib Mahmood are unavailable for selection having been selected in England’s new ODI squad for the Pakistan series following seven positive Covid cases in the initial squad.
The pair will also miss Sunday’s Roses Championship match at Emerald Headingley.
Opponents: Northamptonshire’s campaign has been a tale of two halves.
They went through their first six games without a win, losing five of them and having the other abandoned.
Since then, they have won four of their last five, beat Lancashire at Wantage Road along the way.
A win tomorrow would maintain mathematical hopes of quarter-final qualification for the two-time past champions.
Exciting opener Ricardo Vasconcelos is their leading run-scorer with 322, backed up by Rob Keogh’s 236 in the middle order.
Left-arm spinner Graeme White, an experienced white ball specialist nowadays, is their leading wicket-taker with 14, including 4-26 last time out in the win against Durham.
Their two overseas players are all-rounders Wayne Parnell from South Africa and Mohammad Nabi from Afghanistan. Parnell is with them for the full season and Nabi just solely for the Blast.
Previous meeting: Northamptonshire beat Lancashire by seven wickets late last month.
Ricardo Vasconcelos top-scored with a measured 41 from 38 balls to help his side chase down a modest target of 131 with 10 balls to spare.
It was Lancashire’s fourth match without a win to dent their quarter-final hopes.
The Lightning fell to 23-2 early in the game having elected to bat, and Steven Croft’s unbeaten 35 off 37 from number six was their top score as acceleration proved tricky in 130-7.
In reply, Northants had the things in control with left-handed Vasconcelos at the crease, and he was backed up by a trio of scores in the twenties from Wayne Parnell, Mohammad Nabi and Rob Keogh.
What they said: Dane Vilas is hoping the form of Rob Jones in the last two Blast games can be the start of something special for the batsman from Toft.
Last Thursday and Friday, the 25-year-old middle order player scored 49 not out in victory over Worcestershire at Emirates Old Trafford - the key innings - and then 61 not out in defeat at Yorkshire.
As the Lightning chased 181, Jones came to the crease at 34-3 in the sixth over and nearly secured a victory from nowhere with his career best score.
That Yorkshire game was only his 17th career Blast game.
“He played an unbelievable innings,” said the captain.
“Jonesy hasn’t played much T20 - he hasn’t played a lot of cricket in the first team - but it just shows his class and where he should be.
“Hopefully it’s the start of a long run for him in good form.”
Double header: Tomorrow sees the Thunder face Sunrisers in a crucial afternoon Charlotte Edwards Cup T20 fixture at 2.30pm.
It is the final regional game before the mid-season break for the Hundred and a crucial fixture in the six-game group phase.
Only the top team in the two four-team groups is assured of a place at Finals Day later in the summer. Each of the four teams - Thunder, Diamonds, Storm and Sunrisers - have all won one and lost one so far.
Dating back to the start of last summer, Sunrisers have played 12 T20 and 50-over games in the new regional structure, losing 11 of them.