Match Preview: Northamptonshire v Lancashire
Lancashire return to action at Wantage Road with the Red Rose still unbeaten in the LV= Insurance County Championship
LV= Insurance County Championship, Group Three
Thursday May 20 - Sunday May 23, 2021, 11am
Wantage Road, Northampton
If Lancashire can complete the season’s double over Northants, they will take a giant step towards qualification for the top group in the latter stages of the Championship through August and September.
The Red Rose may have lost top spot to Yorkshire following their draw with Glamorgan in Cardiff, but that fixture came when Dane Vilas and co had a fixture free week.
It means Lancashire are only five points behind the White Rose side with a game in hand - Yorkshire have played six to Lancashire’s five.
This week sees Andrew Gale’s side have a week off before the forthcoming Roses clash at Emirates Old Trafford a week on Thursday.
Fourth-placed Northants are the most realistic threat to gatecrash the Roses pair, who currently hold the two qualification spaces heading into the second half of the initial group phase.
Lancashire are unbeaten with three wins and two draws. Last time out, they drew with Glamorgan at Old Trafford in a rain-affected fixture which did not reach the second innings.
Thanks to this week’s easing of Coronavirus restrictions, this is the first fixture both counties will have played in front of a crowd since the end of the 2019 season.
Jimmy Anderson is available for his second, and what is likely to be his last, Championship fixture prior to England’s early June Test series against New Zealand.
Anderson is eight away from reaching 1,000 first-class career wickets.
Northants also come into this fixture on the back of a week’s break.
They are fourth in Group Three with two wins, two draws and a defeat. That came against Lancashire at Old Trafford last month when the hosts won a hard-fought fixture deep into the fourth and final day. They are currently 25 points behind Lancashire having also played five. Glamorgan are third and 24 points behind, but they have played six.
Northants, captained by wicketkeeper Adam Rossington, have impressed at stages this season. Their pair of victories came at home against Sussex and Glamorgan.
They chased down 355 to beat Sussex last month and beat Glamorgan by an innings earlier this.
One of their two defeats came by just one run against Yorkshire at Headingley, a fixture which they had many chances to win.
Diminutive opener Ricardo Vasconcelos is one to watch. He is their leading run-scorer with 493, including two centuries. He hit 185 not out to lead the Sussex chase.
Their bowling attack has been led by experienced seamer Ben Sanderson, who has struck 20 times. Gareth Berg, another seamer, is one wicket behind him, while South African all-rounder Wayne Parnell is their overseas and has taken 13 wickets.
Northants have high hopes in the future for middle order left-hander Saif Zaib, 22, who posted his maiden first-class century last time out against Sussex.
Lancashire beat Northants by 206 runs to secure their first win of the season in the second round of fixtures last month.
An opening round draw against Sussex was followed by a game which the Red Rose had much the better of, but were certainly made to work hard to seal victory.
Having elected to bat, half-centuries from Alex Davies (57) and Josh Bohannon (68) underpinned a total of 305 before Northants were bowled out for 177. However, they recovered from 87-8 thanks to an 82-run stand between Adam Rossington and Simon Kerrigan.
Matthew Parkinson bowled Rossington for 49 with a stunning leg-spinner, which pitched outside leg and hit the top of off. A replay of the wicket subsequently went viral on social media and was compared to Shane Warne’s ball of the century at Old Trafford in 1993.
Steven Croft’s second-innings 103 not out underpinned Lancashire’s 296-7 declared, setting a target of 425 late on day three, which Northants ended on 59-3.
Parkinson finished with six wickets in the match - three in each innings, with Northants bowled out for 218 second time around.
The visitors recovered from 96-6, with ex-Red Rose Championship winner Luke Procter hitting a 294-ball 93 to impressively hold things up.
Ultimately, he was last man out to Parkinson early in the game’s final hour.
What they said
Glen Chapple is fully aware of the importance of Lancashire’s trip down the M1.
The Red Rose coach said: “A lot of the teams look strong this year, and they are playing good cricket. So it will be a real test.
“Where they are in the table makes it really clear that if we get a good result there it will put us in a fabulous position. It will be another big game, and one we are looking forward to.”
Anderson is eight away from 1,000 career first-class wickets and is set to become the first Lancashire bowler to reach that milestone since Jack Simmons achieved the same feat in 1989.
Anderson claimed 3-40 from 24 overs in the most recent Glamorgan game, which saw the visitors make 344 before the Red Rose responded with 301-9 declared in a rainy fixture.
It was the England star’s first game of the summer following a calf niggle.
Chapple added: “I thought Jimmy bowled brilliantly to say that’s his first game for a couple of months.
“It was an outstanding performance and once again evidence of how committed he is to his cricket and to playing for both England and Lancashire.”