Finals day preview
Finals Day will have never seen anything like it before. A Roses game in the opening semi-final.
Lancashire Lightning v Yorkshire Vikings
Vitality Blast Finals Day, semi-final
Saturday July 16, 2022, 11am
Hold onto your hats, folks!
It is pretty much a given that when Lancashire and Yorkshire meet in a Blast game, there will be fireworks.
This season’s North Group affairs provided just a snapshot of what this fantastic fixture has brought across 20 years of the Vitality Blast.
A tie at Emirates Old Trafford in late May was followed by a last ball, four-run win for the Lightning at Headingley last month. It is the greatest T20 fixture on earth. No ifs, no buts.
The winner will advance to Saturday evening’s final (6.45pm), where the winner will face either Hampshire or Somerset, who play off in the afternoon semi.
Should it be Lancashire and Hampshire who meet in the final, it would be a clash between the two teams who have qualified for Finals Day the most. This will be the ninth appearance at the showpiece occasion for both counties.
Yorkshire supporters will feel like their name is on this trophy given the way they have advanced to Edgbaston, reaching a Finals Day for only the third time.
The Vikings have never won the Blast, but they are extremely confident of correcting that statistic at the 20th time of asking.
They went into the final two North Group games against Birmingham at home and Leicestershire away knowing one win would qualify them and two defeats would eliminate them.
They lost both. But, before the final game at Leicester - a winner takes qualification affair, they were informed that the Foxes had been deducted two points following on-field discipline, automatically qualifying Yorkshire.
From there, they beat South Group winners Surrey at the Oval in the quarter-finals, Jordan Thompson incredibly defending just five off the final over to win by one run.
Yorkshire have been in the same boat as Lancashire - unsure of England unavailability.
They have fielded four overseas players in this season’s Blast; former Lancashire opener Finn Allen, the New Zealander, Pakistan leg-spinning all-rounder Shadab Khan and compatriot fast bowler Haris Rauf.
Completing that list is West Indies fast bowler Dominic Drakes, who will return for Finals Day.
Khan will play tomorrow, while Yorkshire asked for New Zealand opener Finn Allen to be released from international duty. When the answer of no came, they flew Drakes in from Barbados.
Captain David Willey is one of those unsure of his participation today due to England’s ODI series.
Harry Brook has also captained Yorkshire. But he is in the same boat as Willey.
If they don’t play, Adam Lyth will be their captain. The opener is their leading run-scorer in this season's competition with five fifties in 518 runs.
Thompson is their leading wicket-taker with 17.
Opposing player to watch
Dawid Malan is one England player who will definitely be available as, like Richard Gleeson for Lightning, he is not in the ODI squad for the series against India, which is played out either side of Finals Day.
The 34-year-old top order batter was ranked as the number one T20 batter in the world as recently as November.
Malan has had an ok tournament with 201 runs, including two fifties, in eight matches.
Malan is set to open the batting alongside Lyth now that Finn Allen has not been made available.
In 39 T20I appearances for England, Malan has scored 1,356 runs with one century and 12 fifties.
Richard Gleeson struck twice in a telling 18th over as Lancashire, defending 214, came from behind to take a giant step towards the Vitality Blast quarter-finals with a thrilling Roses win by four runs at Headingley (June 8).
Tom Kohler-Cadmore smashed 77 off 43 balls from number three, and the Vikings were in control at 184-4 in the 17th over.
But they lost three wickets in eight balls, including David Willey for 52 caught and bowled by Gleeson, who conceded only five and struck twice (193-7).
Luke Wood also conceded only four in the penultimate, leaving Danny Lamb defending 17 off the last.
That became five off the last ball with Dominic Drakes on strike, and he carved out to deep backward point boundary, where Tom Hartley took a superb catch which had to be reviewed as the 11,300 crowd went silent thinking he may have stepped on the rope.
Yorkshire finished on 209-8 as Lancashire - 213-5 - strengthened top spot in the North Group with a sixth win in seven games. This was Yorkshire’s third defeat in seven.
This followed a tie between the two at Emirates Old Trafford a fortnight earlier.
Singapore international Tim David crashed 66 off 32 balls, including six sixes, to push the Lightning beyond 200 having stuttered to 100-4 in the 12th over.
What they said:
Dane Vilas has added his voice to the theory that the Roses game is the best T20 fixture in world cricket.
Already this season, Lancashire legend David Lloyd has said that, as has ex-Lightning seamer Kabir Ali, now part of the Yorkshire’s backroom staff as their assistant coach to Ottis Gibson.
And Red Rose captain Vilas agrees: “I think so,” he said.
“The games I’ve been involved in since I’ve been here, they have been amazing atmospheres.
“You can see the games we play against each other, they are tight and good quality cricket.
“It is one of the best domestic games that are around - I don’t think there are any others that can compete.”
Vilas and co are in confident mood ahead of Lancashire’s ninth Finals Day appearance.
He said: “Finals Day is going to be fantastic. To play in front of a packed house will be really good. It is nice that we are going into it playing some great cricket.
“So we have momentum - although all teams there will say that going into Finals Day. It should be a great day.
“Yorkshire will be another tough game. Hopefully it won’t be as tight as the recent matches have been!
“But it’s always great to play against them, the old enemy, and hopefully we can carry on our good recent form against them.
“We want to win, we want to put another star on our chest.
“We want to get past Yorkshire and get to the final.
“Finals Day is always the second date you look for in the fixtures after the Roses matches, and you really want to get there.
“We want to put right the wrongs from the last time we went there (2020 - semi-final defeat to Notts), and continue to play the good cricket we have been doing.
“It would be massive to win it as captain of Lancashire.
“It has been an honour to be captain of Lancs, and to put a trophy on the board…that is what we work hard for. We’ve been so close in a number of competitions in the past, so to win something would be a special moment.”
Steven Croft needs 46 more runs to better Tom Smith’s record for most T20 runs in a season for Lancashire (543 in 2010), while Richard Gleeson needs 4 wickets to beat the club record for most wickets in a season (currently 26 by Stephen Parry in 2010).
The other semi-final, 2.30pm
Hampshire face Somerset in the afternoon semi-final.
Hampshire beat Birmingham Bears in the quarter-finals at Edgbaston last week, while Somerset beat Derbyshire Falcons at Taunton, amassing a Blast record total of 265-5 in winning by a whopping 191 runs.
Somerset were beaten finalists by Kent here last summer.