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Match Preview: Northamptonshire Steelbacks v Lancashire Lightning

Match Preview: Northamptonshire Steelbacks v Lancashire Lightning

Lancashire start the first of two away games in consecutive days against the Steelbacks

Vitality Blast, North Group
Friday June 25, 2021, 6.30pm
The County Ground, Wantage Road

After the dust has settled and nerves eased following Sunday’s dramatic tie with champions Nottinghamshire at Emirates Old Trafford, Lancashire are back to it and could really do with a victory.

Three games without a win - a defeat at Durham, a No Result at Birmingham and the Notts tie - has seen them slip out of the top four in what is a highly competitive North Group.

The Lightning sit fifth in the table with eight points from seven games, below Durham with nine points from seven, Birmingham in third with nine points from seven, second-placed Notts with 10 from seven and leaders Yorkshire with 11 from seven.

Lancashire face a Northamptonshire side who are bottom of the table and have only won one game in seven. They have lost five of those, with that victory coming last night by nine wickets chasing 158 at Durham.

Ricardo Vasconcelos opened and hit 78 not out, while opener Adam Rossington made 59. They shared a 125 opening partnership.

Team news:

Lancashire have been boosted by the news that Saqib Mahmood is in contention for his first Blast game of 2021 following an abdominal injury, but fellow fast bowler Richard Gleeson remains sidelined with a back issue.

Opponents:

It has been a nightmare start to the Blast for the champions of 2013 and 2016.

Despite last night’s win at Durham, it will take an outstanding run of form for captain Josh Cobb’s side to qualify for the quarter-finals.

Once a force in T20 whilst struggling in the Championship, things have turned around for the Wantage Road county given they were promoted to Division One immediately before the pandemic forced a restructure of that competition.

Now, they are third in Group Three with two games remaining and very much in the hunt alongside Lancashire and Yorkshire for a top two finish and qualification for the late summer top group in that format.

In the Blast, it has been a case of defeat after defeat, unfortunately.

They have lost last season’s leading run-scorer Paul Stirling at the top of the order, piling extra pressure on powerful South African Richard Levi.

Their two overseas players for the competition are South African Wayne Parnell and Afghanistan’s Mohammad Nabi, both all-rounders.

Former Blast winning captain Alex Wakely has recently retired.

Of course, they still have batting danger men in the likes of Levi, Adam Rossington, Ricardo Vasconcelos - arguably their best player - Rob Keogh and bright young hopeful Saif Zaib.

But they have struggled with the ball, conceding some high totals, including 200 plus twice at Wantage Road.

Neither Simon Kerrigan or Luke Procter, the former Lancashire duo, have featured in the Blast this season.

Previous meeting:

These two sides have not met since 2019, when Lancashire won by eight wickets at Wantage Road, chasing 158 with nine balls to spare.

James Faulkner claimed three wickets to set the Lightning up for a victory which consolidated top spot.

The Australian’s 3-36 from four overs was supplemented by a more economical 2-24 from Liam Livingstone as the Steelbacks made 157-7 in this mid-August fixture. Opener Adam Rossington top-scored with 40.

In reply, Alex Davies provided the performance of the match as his masterful 75 not out off 58 balls, including 10 boundaries, sealed the two points.

He shared partnerships of 42 for the first wicket with Livingstone (22), 62 for the second with Steven Croft (27) and an unbroken 56 for the third with captain Dane Vilas (31 not out).

Lancashire have beaten the Steelbacks seven times in T20 cricket and lost on three occasions. All three defeats have come at Wantage Road.

What they said:

Keaton Jennings believes the four-day gap between games will work well for Lancashire, enabling them to come back firing tomorrow.

The Lightning squad enjoyed a couple of days rest at the start of the week before returning to training ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Northampton and Saturday’s clash with Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge.

“The games have come thick and fast, so to get in the nets and practice skills is good,” said the left-hander opener, who scored a superb unbeaten 88 against Notts at Emirates Old Trafford on Sunday.

“(Getting some) rest is key with the guys being on the road. And getting into hotels at 2am (after games) leads to bad sleeps, and that goes unnoticed a lot of the time because this is a performance sport.

“So, we’ve had a couple of days off and come back to training nice and refreshed.”

And despite Northamptonshire’s rough start, Jennings is certainly not counting any chickens.

“Every side in this group is strong,” he added.

“There are nine high quality teams who all want to win the tournament. Every game is vital, and we need to make sure we produce some high quality cricket.”

 
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