Match Preview: Lancashire v Essex Eagles
Lancashire realistically have to win their final group game to qualify for the knockout stages of the Royal London Cup
Royal London Cup, Group A
Thursday August 12, 2021, 11am
Emirates Old Trafford
The Red Rose are currently placed third in the Group A table behind leaders Durham and second-placed Essex, tomorrow’s opponents.
The table is being decided on an average points per completed game basis.
Lancashire cannot qualify directly for a home semi-final next Tuesday, with leaders Durham already out of reach.
But a win would likely secure a home Eliminator tie against the third placed team in Group B at Emirates Old Trafford on Saturday.
Lancashire currently have eight points after seven games to Essex’s 10. So a win over Essex would take Lancashire to 10, giving the two sides the same points average. It would then go down to net run-rate.
Essex’s (1.429) is better than Lancashire’s (1.143) at present, but a home win would likely overturn that.
Lancashire would qualify with defeat if Hampshire also lose against Durham and Gloucestershire lose against Kent.
Lancashire continue to be without Keaton Jennings and Richard Gleeson, both of whom remain in the treatment room following respective calf and back injuries.
Essex, meanwhile, will field former England Test captain Sir Alastair Cook at the top of their batting order.
Essex, the reigning county champions, are aiming for RL50 success to salvage what has so far been a very frustrating season for them.
Having won the Bob Willis Trophy last summer to add to County Championship title wins in 2017 and 2019, the Chelmsford side have failed to qualify for the top division of this season’s Championship.
Vitality Blast champions in 2019, the Eagles also missed out on the quarter-finals of this season’s competition.
However, in 50-over cricket, they have won five of seven matches and currently occupy second spot in the table.
They won by 97 runs last time out against Sussex at Chelmsford on Tuesday, comfortably defending their 321-8 total.
Captained by Tom Westley, they also include former internationals Sir Alastair Cook, Ryan ten Doeschate and Simon Harmer.
Feroze Khushi, a 22-year-old batsman, has scored their only century of the campaign. That came in defeat at Durham at the weekend - his List A debut.
Westley’s haul of 332 runs with four fifties is his side’s best, while South African off-spinner Harmer leads their wickets’ tally with 14.
That is the most by any bowler in the competition.
Former Yorkshire and England all-rounder Anthony McGrath is their head coach.
This is the first Royal London Cup meeting between the two sides since 2015, when Essex won a group fixture by seven wickets en route to the quarter-finals. And Lancashire were ‘Ravi Bopara-erd’ that day.
Invited to bat first, Lancashire, including Ashwell Prince, Alviro Petersen and James Faulkner, were a long way below par at 161-9 from their 50-overs, including 37 from Alex Davies down the order. Bopara claimed an excellent 4-31 from 10 overs of canny medium pace for the hosts.
Davies came in at 62-5 - it was 66-6 shortly afterwards - and steered the Red Rose to respectability at least with two fours in 60 balls.
In reply, Bopara - now a Sussex player - hit a superb 98-ball 101 not out out from number three.
He came in at 20-1 and went on to seal victory with 17 overs to spare.
Zimbabwean fast bowler Kyle Jarvis claimed two of the three Essex wickets to fall.
It was a defeat which, unfortunately, contributed to Lancashire failing to get out of the group stages.
What they said:
George Lavelle is, understandably, determined not to take his eyes off the prize and let his mind wander to the possibility of more exposure ahead.
The 21-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman from Ormskirk has been an ever-present for Lancashire throughout the ongoing Royal London Cup, claiming six catches and a stumping in five appearances (two more have been washed out that he would have played in).
He has also posted a top-score of 38 down the order in that period.
Lavelle spoke on Sunday about how he is relishing an extended run in the first team and about how he and his team-mates can hopefully “dream of playing in a final and winning the trophy”.
But the last few weeks has shown there are clearly other factors to be considered for a youngster who has been highly regarded within the Lancashire system for a number of years now.
With homegrown gloveman Alex Davies heading for pastures new in the next couple of months, Warwickshire to be precise, Lavelle has the chance to secure more first-team opportunities.
But he admitted that he isn’t looking that far ahead, instead concentrating on securing county cricket’s first piece of silverware in 2021.
“Hopefully it opens up a position,” he said of the Davies’s impending departure.
“But we’ll have to wait and see.
“I just try and keep performing day in, day out and do the right things in training. Hopefully it all goes well in games, and you get the opportunity from there.”