Match Preview: Lancashire v Hampshire
WARNING This preview may contain the odd reference to 2011!
LV= Insurance County Championship
Tuesday September 21 - Friday 24, 2021, 10.30am
Liverpool Cricket Club, Aigburth
Sponsored by C&C Insurance
Ten years on from the glorious title win at Taunton, we’re in the same position again - a final week fight for county cricket’s Holy Grail.
Lancashire and leaders Hampshire are two of four teams separated by just 6.5 points at the top of the Division One table, with Warwickshire and Nottinghamshire also in the race.
Hampshire have 58.5 points, Warwickshire 55, Lancashire 54.5 and Notts 52.
Each of the three fixtures in the top division affects the race. Warwickshire host Somerset at Edgbaston and Notts face Yorkshire at Trent Bridge.
The permutations are aplenty.
Lancashire can win the title with a draw against Hampshire, though it would be a major surprise if that scenario came to pass. Hampshire need four bonus points in the game to ensure Lancashire must win.
For the Red Rose to win the title, the following three things must happen.
To go above Hampshire, they must gain five more points than Hampshire. Four are insufficient as Hampshire would be ahead on tie-breaker with more wins.
To go above Warwickshire, they must gain one more point than the Bears.
To stay above Nottinghamshire, they must not gain fewer than two points less than them.
Both sides come into this fixture on the back of three-day victories last week, Lancashire beating Somerset at Taunton and Hampshire beating Notts at the Ageas Bowl to leapfrog them to the top of the table.
Hampshire were beaten in the morning semi-final by Somerset at Vitality Blast Finals Day at Edgbaston on Saturday, failing to defend 151 when Somerset were 34-5 and 103-7.
Meanwhile, the team who finishes second in the table will qualify for the five-day Bob Willis Trophy final at Lord’s next week, starting on Tuesday September 28, and will play the county champions.
Hampshire qualified for Division One with four wins from 10 games, finishing second in Group Two to Somerset.
The Ageas Bowl side have since won two of their three games in the competition’s latter phase to set them on the way to what would be a first Championship title since 1973 when Gordon Greenidge and Barry Richards were part of that triumph. Trevor Jesty, who later finished his career with Lancashire, likewise.
In fact, they have only ever won the Championship twice, the other time coming in 1961.
In the end of season Division One campaign, they have built on their early season promise with victories over Warwickshire and Somerset having held on for a draw nine wickets down against Yorkshire in the opening match.
Captain James Vince (731) and opener Ian Holland (765) lead the way in terms of Championship runs, while Kyle Abbott leads the way with 46 wickets. As aforementioned, he has missed the last two games with an ankle injury.
Fellow seamers Keith Barker, Lancashire-born, and Pakistan’s Mohammad Abbas have taken 36 apiece.
Lancashire won the last Championship meeting between these two sides, by eight wickets at the Ageas Bowl in a final week clash in 2018. Tom Bailey claimed eight wickets in an eight-wicket win. Unfortunately, it could not save the Red Rose from relegation that season.
But let’s take a look at a clash between these two which remains so special to every Lancashire fan.
In 2011, these two met at Liverpool in a penultimate round clash which will go down in Red Rose folklore.
Lancashire had to win to stay alive in the title race with Warwickshire, and did so with only four balls remaining as Hampshire, chasing 361 on the final day, were bowled out for 138.
Lancashire raced through their overs, with spinners Gary Keedy and Simon Kerrigan sharing 71 overs between them.
And Kerrigan claimed a stunning 9-51 from 37.2 to set up a final week title race with the Bears.
They would go to Somerset and win, while Warwickshire drew at Hampshire.
The run-in was as tense as it gets.
Are you ready for more of the same this week?
What they said
The Liverpool link is certainly not lost on Lancashire’s current squad as they get set for what could be a week they will never forget.
In 2011, the county played six of their eight Championship home games there with Emirates Old Trafford unavailable due to the square being turned.
Now, the Aigburth venue could play its part again.
“The lads spoke about it the other day, 10 years ago a lot of games were played at Liverpool and our last game is there,” said captain Dane Vilas. “Hopefully we can replicate what they did and win it again.
“Saying that, we know there is a lot of work to do. We know we have to win and play well, and Hampshire are a good side.
“But we are going to take a lot of momentum (from the win at Somerset). It was a great win for us, and we did everything we wanted to.
“We have a massive opportunity. It’s going to be a big week for a lot of teams - four still have a chance. If we play like we did at Somerset, we have a huge, huge opportunity to win it.”
Clearly, this is a big week for all the players, but Vilas could end it by being the one who lifts the Championship title.
This is the South African’s fifth season with the county and his third as skipper.
“It’s amazing,” he added. “To win the County Championship is the big one. T20 and all of that, but this is the hardest one to win. All the players want to win it.”