MATCH PREVEW: Lancashire Lightning v Northants Steelbacks
Lancashire are on an early roll in the Blast, but come up against another side who, like Derbyshire last night, have made a lively start to their campaign.
Lancashire Lightning v Northants Steelbacks
Vitality Blast, North Group
Emirates Old Trafford
Friday June 3, 2022, 6.30pm
The unbeaten Lightning moved top of the North Group yesterday with a third win to add to the Roses tie last Friday, the latest being by 17 runs defending 220 against the Falcons.
That may change later this evening, with a Birmingham Bears win over Leicestershire at Edgbaston ensuring they regain top spot. Whatever happens in the Midlands, there is no doubt the Lightning are in healthy shape after a quartet of games.
Northamptonshire, meanwhile, have won two of four games so far and occupy third place in the North.
The latest of them was against Leicester at home last night when, like Lancashire against Derbyshire, they racked up a mammoth total, their 227-1 underpinned by a century from Australian Chris Lynn. More about him in a minute!
They then defended that to win by 42 runs, the Foxes responding with 185-9.
Tomorrow is another double header day with the Thunder women, who face Loughborough-based Lightning in their final Charlotte Edwards Cup game at 2.30pm.
Northamptonshire are two-time champions having won the Blast in both 2013 and 2016 and were also runners-up to Lancashire at Edgbaston in 2015.
Unfortunately for the Steelbacks, they have been unable to make a significant impact on the competition since.
But this year could be different for a side who finished bottom of the North with only four wins in 13 games in 2021. The early signs certainly suggest so.
The county are under a new coach this summer in John Sadler, who was assistant to long-standing David Ripley, who stepped down during the winter.
They have signed Australian batter Chris Lynn and New Zealand all-rounder Jimmy Neesham for the Blast.
The latter made his debut for the Steelbacks last night against Leicester, hitting an unbeaten 75 from number three in the order and taking 2-26 from three overs of canny seamers.
Twenty-year-old left-arm wrist spinner Freddie Heldreich also claimed a career best 3-22 in his ninth T20 game.
Batter Josh Cobb is their captain in both this competition as well as the Royal London Cup.
Opposing player to watch:
Experienced Australian opener Chris Lynn is playing county cricket for the first time, although he did play in the Hundred last year with Northern Superchargers.
And what an impact he has already made for the Steelbacks.
A powerful right-hander who has made his name by clearing boundaries - and stands - in the colours of hometown team Brisbane Heat, he has played 22 limited overs internationals, including 18 T20s.
Last night against Leicestershire at Wantage Road, he recorded his third T20 career century - and his 350th career six - in the 234th match
It was a brutal 106 not out off 66 balls having already walloped 83 off 46 in a victory over Durham last week.
Lynn, 32, only recently announced that he would be leaving Brisbane Heat and searching for a new Big Bash team for the next edition of that competition later this year.
Watch out in the crowd if this fella gets going again tomorrow evening.
These two teams shared Blast victories last year, with Lancashire’s coming at Emirates Old Trafford on July 9.
It was the first of three victories on the trot at the end of the North Group which qualified the Lightning for the quarter-finals.
Northamptonshire, having elected to bat, were limited to 142-8, including Liam Hurt’s 3-22 from three overs plus Danny Lamb’s excellent 2-27 from four.
Rob Keogh’s measured 56 off 48 balls from number four in the order was offered no support from elsewhere.
In reply, the Lightning scorched to their total for the loss of only two wickets inside 16 overs, with New Zealander Finn Allen clattering 66 off 37 balls alongside opening partner Keaton Jennings, who made an unbeaten 54 off 41.
They shared 112 inside 12 overs to all but end the contest. When it did come to an end, there were 4.2 overs remaining.
What they said:
Liam Livingstone has given an insight into his mindset as a T20 superstar all-rounder.
Livingstone is one of the hottest commodities in world T20 cricket at the minute, be it a regular in England’s side or a gun for hire in domestic cricket around the world. He has only just returned from Indian Premier League duty with Punjab Kings, for example.
The 28-year-old Barrovian led the way in yesterday’s home victory over Derbyshire with a quick-fire 75 and a wicket with his varied spinners. He also took a catch.
“One thing I’ve learnt over the last three or four years is that you don’t do it every game,” said Livingstone. “It just doesn’t happen.
“Even the best in the world, apart from Jos (Buttler), don’t really do it every game. If you win one every three or four games, you’re doing your job.
“It’s almost being content with failure. As long as I can try and contribute in the field, with the ball or with the bat, I’m happy.”
Lancashire have hosted Northamptonshire in five completed fixtures at Emirates Old Trafford in the Vitality Blast, winning all of them - the first of which was 2010 when Tom Smith (67) and Simon Kerrigan (3-17) starred.