MATCH PREVIEW: Lancashire Lightning v Birmingham Bears
Lancashire have qualified for the quarter-finals of the Blast yet again - for the fifth season running. Now, it is about securing a home tie in the next week’s last eight.
Match sponsored by C&C Insurance:
Lancashire Lightning v Birmingham Bears
Vitality Blast, North Group
Sunday July 3, 2022, 6.30pm
Emirates Old Trafford
The Lightning are second in the North Group table on 16 points, level on points with Derbyshire in third but ahead courtesy of a superior net run-rate.
A win against North Group winners Birmingham, in front of the Sky cameras, will almost certainly secure a top two finish and a home quarter.
Birmingham are two points ahead, but such is the strength of their run-rate, it will almost be impossible for Lancashire to overturn it even with a big win.
Clearly, the Lightning have stumbled of late. After winning six of their first seven games and going unbeaten during the first half of the competition, they have lost four of their last six outings, winning only one.
They were beaten by 29 runs at the hands of bottom side Worcestershire at New Road last night, falling from 85-0 to 149 all out in pursuit of 179 target.
Openers Phil Salt (44) and Jos Buttler (42) impressed but were lone contributors with the bat after Luke Wells had taken two wickets in Worcester’s 178-6.
Birmingham have been this season’s master blasters. The Bears have posted 200 or more seven times in 13 games, including a record score in the history of the Blast, 261-2 in a win over Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge last month.
In Friday's win over Yorkshire at Headingley, which secured their qualification for the quarter-finals, they posted 238-5 and defended it to win by 31 runs.
Paul Stirling, Alex Davies, Sam Hain, Adam Hose, Chris Benjamin and Dan Mousley, even captain Carlos Brathwaite, can all win a match with the bat.
Left-arm wrist spinner Jake Lintott is the third leading wicket-taker in this season’s Blast with 21 and is one scalp behind Red Rose and England quick Richard Gleeson.
Opposing Player to Watch
Batter Adam Hose has enjoyed a particularly fine last five games, posting scores of 88 not out, 20, 63 not out, 110 not out and 20.
The tall 29-year-old came through the Hampshire age-groups before making his senior debuts in all formats for Somerset. He then moved to Warwickshire midway through 2017.
Hose is effectively a two format player nowadays, wearing the colours of Birmingham Bears in the Blast and the Birmingham Phoenix in the Hundred.
The last of his 19 first-class fixtures came in 2019 and his last List A appearance the summer before that.
Hose is amongst the top five leading run-scorers in this season’s Blast with 491, shooting up that particularly list with his stellar performances through late June.
These two sides have not taken to the field against each other since August 11, 2019. Since then, two games have been rained off (one last summer and the other in 2019), while a scheduled clash in 2020 was shelved because of Coronavirus.
Birmingham won the last meeting, at Edgbaston, by 15 runs having posted 179-6 thanks largely to Adam Hose’s 65 off 34 balls with seven sixes and a more measured 51 for opener Dom Sibley.
Spinners Matt Parkinson and Liam Livingstone claimed three wickets apiece for the Lightning, who went onto lose their first group game at the ninth attempt that season.
In reply, Lancashire slipped to 28-3 before Australian overseas star Glenn Maxwell revived their chances with 79 off 39, including four sixes.
With him unbeaten at the crease and the score 135-3 halfway through the 16th over, Lancashire were favourites for the win.
But his departure, bowled by the seam of Will Rhodes, was the first of three wickets to fall for seven runs as the score slipped to 142-6 in the 18th. From there, the Bears were able to close things out, the visitors finishing on 164-7.
Lancashire only lost twice in the entire North Group campaign, finishing top of the table and earning a quarter-final tie with Essex, which had to be played at Durham because of a clash with the Ashes Test Match. Unfortunately, they were knocked out by the Eagles.
What they said
The Lightning camp are determined to look on the bright side despite their recent run of defeats.
“We would take where we are in the group now from the start of the competition,” said coach Glen Chapple after last night’s defeat at New Road.
The former all-rounder, reflecting on that reverse, said: “I don’t think we played particularly well. But, at 80-0 chasing 170 odd, we were clear favourites.
“The lads are disappointed because it is a game we should have won, but collapses like that happen in T20 cricket and you wouldn’t necessarily play any different shots. You just hope to execute them better.
“So we will prepare well for the next game and hopefully play better.
“I think maybe they got too many runs with the quality of bowling attack we had out there.
“We didn’t quite hit our areas well enough to create pressure with the ball. But, at the end of the day, they played pretty well. It makes Sunday a big game.”
Lancashire have qualified for the quarter-finals 15 times in 20 seasons of the Vitality Blast.