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Match Preview: Somerset v Lancashire Lightning

Match Preview: Somerset v Lancashire Lightning

Lancashire have qualified for 14 Blast quarter-finals, the most of any county.

Vitality Blast Quarter-Final
Thursday August 26, 2021, 7pm
The Cooper Associates County Ground, Taunton

Lancashire have qualified for 14 Blast quarter-finals, the most of any county.

The Red Rose hold another record in English T20 cricket. Their eight Finals Day appearances is already the most of the 18 counties. Now it is about adding to the most important statistic, turning one title into two.

Standing in our way are Somerset, the second-placed team in the South Group (Lancashire finished third in the North).

Somerset have also won the Blast once before, in 2005, and beat Lancashire in a rain-affected final at the Oval.

Each of the four quarter-finals are being televised by Sky Sports this week.

Sussex have already qualified for Finals Day at Edgbaston on September 18 having beaten Yorkshire last night. Nottinghamshire face Hampshire at Trent Bridge tonight, while Kent host Birmingham at Canterbury on Friday.

Opponents

Somerset finished second in the South Group having won eight of their 14 games, with Lancashire winning seven to finish third in the North.

Coached by Boltonian Jason Kerr, Somerset have been captained at stages through the competition by all-rounders Lewis Gregory and Craig Overton.

Gregory is available, while Overton is on Test duty and was picked in England's final eleven ahead of Saqib Mahmood at Headingley.

Somerset recovered from winning just one of their opening five group games to qualify, including two No Results. They then went on a run of five straight wins to get themselves back in contention.

While Lancashire won their last three group games, Somerset won their last two.

Devon Conway was their leading run-scorer in the group stages with 309 from eight matches, while hard-hitting pair Tom Banton and Will Smeed both topped 200 runs, as did veteran James Hildreth.

Banton scored one of eight group stage centuries around the country.

South African overseas fast bowler Marchant de Lange led the way for them with 14 wickets, while Overton and Lewis Gregory each returned 12.

Previous meeting

Lancashire and Somerset have only played each other twice before in Blast cricket. The first was in 2005 when Somerset won the final at the Oval by seven wickets chasing 115 in 16 overs. Former South Africa captain Graeme Smith hit an unbeaten 64.

The other was in the 2008 quarter-final at Emirates Old Trafford and will not be forgotten in a hurry!

Following two and a half days of rain, the umpires ordered the tie to be decided via a bowl-out in the Indoor School; Five bowlers per side bowling two balls each, the winner was the side who hit the most.

Unfortunately, that was Somerset.

In eight attempts, only Steven Cheetham hit for Lancashire, the seamer who would not have played due to injury had the game taken its conventional course.

Somerset, meanwhile, hit five times, with their captain Justin Langer speaking of a “bizarre” victory.

What they said

Dane Vilas wants Lancashire to take inspiration from their recent routes to Finals Days when they travel down to Taunton.

The last three times the Lightning have qualified for the Edgbaston showpiece, they have done so by winning away quarter-finals.

They beat Kent at Canterbury both in 2015 and 2018 and Sussex at Hove last summer.

“It’s not that we don’t like playing at Old Trafford, but we do enjoy a challenge,” said captain Vilas. “We generally seem to play well when we have our backs against the rope and have to go away somewhere.

“Somerset are a strong county who compete regularly across all the competitions.

“It will be a difficult game, but we are really looking forward to it.

“Our record in T20 is fantastic. Getting to quarter-finals and Finals Day is something we are always desperate to do.

“But the way we have played to get to as many Finals Days as we have, to only have one title to our name is a bit disappointing. Hopefully this year we can change that.”

Vilas is one of a host of Lancashire players returning to county duty following the Hundred.

The 36-year-old South African enjoyed his own experience of playing for the Northern Superchargers, featuring in five games with encouraging scores of 22 not out, 35 not out and 36.

A significant positive for Lancashire is that all players have been playing regularly in the Hundred, so they won’t come back out of rhythm.

Vilas agrees, adding: “We have had guys playing regularly, but also doing well.

“It’s been good to see them flying the flag for Lancashire no matter where they have been. Hopefully they can bring all the form and momentum they have back into this competition, which starts a big two months for us.”

 
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