Match Preview: Lancashire vs Warwickshire
Lancashire v Warwickshire
LV= Insurance County Championship
Monday August 30 - Thursday September 2, 2021, 11am
Emirates Old Trafford
Sponsored by C&C Insurance
The race for the Championship title is on, and first up for Lancashire is a Bear hunt!
This is the first of four remaining games in the competition’s top group, with Warwickshire, Somerset, Lancashire, Hampshire, Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire battling it out for English cricket’s ultimate prize.
Each team has carried forward points from the initial phase of the Championship. It is half the aggregate of points accrued in matches against the team you have advanced with. That was Yorkshire, who the Red Rose beat at Emirates Old Trafford and drew with at Emerald Headingley.
The carrying forward of points is owed to the fact that Lancashire and Yorkshire will not meet again during the next month.
So, the points situation is as follows.
Warwickshire are top with 21 points, Somerset second with 18.5, Lancashire third with 16.5, Hampshire fourth on 8.5, Notts fifth on five and Yorkshire bottom with 4.5.
The team who finishes top will be crowned the county champions and will also then play the second-placed team in the five-day Bob Willis Trophy final at Lord’s in late September.
It is 10 years since the Red Rose were crowned county champions in 2011, and clearly this week will be a crucial clash in their bid to replicate that success.
Saqib Mahmood returns from Test duty, but James Anderson and Jos Buttler will not be available.
The Red Rose have injury and illness concerns to contend with Keaton Jennings (calf), Luke Wood (side) and Matthew Parkinson all missed Thursday’s Vitality Blast quarter-final defeat against Somerset at Taunton, although Parkinson is now out of isolation.
Warwickshire have signed one-Test West Indies fast bowler Chemar Holder as an overseas player for the final stages of the competition.
Warwickshire’s form in the initial phase of the Championship highlighted one of the quirks of the competition’s structure.
While Lancashire were in Group Three, Warwickshire were in Group One alongside Nottinghamshire.
Both the Bears and Notts won four games apiece in 10 games, with Notts finishing top of the table, six points clear.
However, Warwickshire won both matches between the two and, because of that, advanced with a significantly better points haul - 21 to five.
They beat Notts by three wickets at Trent Bridge in April and by 170 runs at Edgbaston in May, also beating reigning champions Essex at home and Derbyshire away.
They are coached by former England women’s head coach Mark Robinson, who is in his first season in charge.
Former fast bowler Robinson won the one-day World Cup with England in 2017 and is a former Championship-winning coach with Sussex.
The Bears are captained by all-rounder Will Rhodes, who could open the batting alongside dropped England batsman Dom Sibley.
The wickets have been shared around their attack. Rhodes, who bowls medium paced seamers, is one of five bowlers who have all taken at least 20 wickets. Fellow seamer Liam Norwell leads the way with 27 and has gained valuable support from Craig Miles, spinner Danny Briggs and Oliver Hannon-Dalby.
Highly-rated 21-year-old left-hander Rob Yates is their leading run-scorer with 576 in 10 games, including three hundreds. He is also an option to open the batting this week.
Sam Hain has also topped the 500-run mark for the season (515).
Warwickshire have already fielded overseas batsmen Pieter Malan and Hanamu Vihari this season, but they have injury issues surrounding Henry Brookes and Olly Stone - hence the overseas signing of Chemar Holder.
Chris Woakes is also battling back to full fitness following a heel problem.
These two sides haven’t met in the Championship since 2017, when Lancashire drew at Edgbaston in a late June day/night, pink ball fixture and then won by eight wickets at Emirates Old Trafford in late August.
The Red Rose finished second that season behind Essex, while Warwickshire finished bottom and were relegated.
Zimbabwean Kyle Jarvis claimed a superb 6-67 as the Bears, who elected to bat at Old Trafford, were bowled out for 200. Jarvis shared all 10 wickets with fellow new ball seamer Ryan McLaren, the South African overseas player.
In reply, a sensational 224 from Liam Livingstone led the Red Rose into a winning position at 504-8 declared. He shared a 211 partnership for the fifth wicket with Shiv Chanderpaul, who made 95.
Lancashire declared during the early stages of day three, and Warwickshire’s response with the bat was spirited as they made 344 all out thanks to wicketkeeper Tim Ambrose’s 104. McLaren claimed three more wickets and Jarvis two. Matthew Parkinson also returned three, including the wicket of Ambrose.
Lancashire were set a target of just 41 on the final day, achieved for the loss of two wickets inside eight overs. Opener Haseeb Hameed made 21.
It was one of five victories in 14 games for Dane Vilas and co as they finished 72 points behind an Essex side who won 10 times.
We were due to meet last season with the Bears having been promoted to Division One. But Coronavirus hit and later forced a restructure of the competition into the conferences.
What they said
Lancashire have had a couple of days to dust themselves off following the disappointment of Thursday’s Vitality Blast exit at the quarter-final stage, beaten by Somerset at Taunton.
And they are now fully focused on winning their second Championship title in 11 seasons.
“I am incredibly proud of the players,” said captain Dane Vilas following Thursday’s game.
“We have been competitive in all our cricket this summer and still have the chance to get revenge on Somerset and win the Championship title over the next month.”
In finishing top of the 10-game Group Three, by one point from Yorkshire, a phase of the competition which finished in mid-July, Lancashire won four times and lost only once - to Glamorgan at Cardiff.
They may be starting the final group stage in third place, but they are only a handful of points behind this week’s opponents, Warwickshire.
“If you take us back to April, we would have snatched your hand off for what we’ve achieved so far,” said coach Glen Chapple, the skipper of Lancashire’s side the last time they won the four-day crown.
“I’m delighted for the players with how hard they’ve worked, and it sets us up for a good run at the last four games.”