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MATCH PREVIEW: Lancashire Lightning vs Durham

MATCH PREVIEW: Lancashire Lightning vs Durham

Lancashire returned to winning ways at Blackpool on Sunday with a polished performance in a six-wicket victory over Nottinghamshire Outlaws as they chased 180 with comfort.

Only briefly did Notts kick into gear with both bat and ball, and they were stifled by a Lightning side who had lost their previous two games against Durham and Northamptonshire.

But they bounced back brilliantly to win their seventh game from 10 in the North Group and put one foot in the quarter-finals.

Lancs are not mathematically certain of a place in the last eight for the fifth straight season. But it would take something remarkable to deny them from here.

They face a Durham side who need a miracle to qualify having only won three of 10 games so far, losing seven. 

                                 

Opponents 

It has been a miserable campaign for Durham so far, despite starting ever so brightly with an opening night victory on the road against Leicestershire Foxes at Grace Road in May.

Since then, victories have come over Worcestershire at home and Lancashire at home.

They have had significant disruption with their overseas players during this campaign. Australian all-rounder Ashton Turner, their captain, has only played four matches to date following a shoulder injury, while fellow West Aussie AJ Tye has also missed matches, as has South African batter David Bedingham.

In the six matches he has played to date, seamer Tye has been superb with 17 wickets, including a best of 5-38. In fact, you could lay down a strong argument for him being the competition’s outstanding bowler to date given he has played only a handful of games.

At time of writing, he was the joint second leading wicket-taker in this season’s Blast alongside Lancashire quick Richard Gleeson.

Aggressive opener Graham Clark is their leading run-scorer with 265 runs, including two half-centuries.

Opposing player to watch 

Batter Ashton Turner is a middle order specialist who has made his mark for Australia and has played his part in all four of Perth Scorchers’ Big Bash League title triumphs.

He captained the Scorchers to success in the most recent BBL campaign, back in January, and scored 54 batting at five in the final win against Sydney Sixers, helping them to recover from 25-4 to post 171-6 amidst a 79-run win.

The 29-year-old has only scored 68 in four innings in this season’s Blast, including a top-score of 32, but he is far better than that. 

Should he score his maiden half-century for Durham in this fixture, he would pass the 2,000-run mark in his T20 career, which currently amounts to 135 games, including 18 for Australia.

He does not have a reputation as a destructive batter such as former Perth team-mates Liam Livingstone and Tim David, but he definitely does not lack power.

His best performance for Australia came in a one-day international against India in Mohali in March 2019 when he hit 84 not out off 43 balls batting at number six.

The Aussies were pursuing a target of 359, and when he walked to the crease they were 229-4 in the 37th over.

Long-standing shoulder problems have held back the former Lancashire League professional (Todmorden, 2016), who also bowls tidy part-time off-spin.

               

Previous meeting 

Durham chased 131 to win by two wickets at the Seat Unique Riverside on June 10, ending Lancashire’s unbeaten start to this season’s Vitality Blast competition. 

The Lightning had previously won six of their opening seven games, added to an opening night Roses tie at Emirates Old Trafford. 

Lancashire were bowled out for 130 having elected to bat, with Steven Croft’s 55 off 52 balls the standout innings on a slow surface. Seamer AJ Tye and on-loan Middlesex leg-spinner Nathan Sowter claimed three wickets apiece.

In reply, Durham lost regular wickets, four of them to the brilliant Richard Gleeson, who finished with 4-19 from his four overs - all his wickets coming bowled.

And at 111-8 after 17.4 overs, Lancashire were in the box seat. However, stand-in captain Liam Trevaskis crashed 16 off seven balls, including three boundaries, to turn things around and seal victory for his side with three balls to spare.

What they said 

Steven Croft is hoping another win on Thursday can pave the way for the Lightning to play even more exciting, pressure-free T20 cricket.

While not mathematically certain of a place in the quarter-finals, Lancashire are all but there having won seven games so far. An eighth, against Durham, would further rubber-stamp their progression.

“We don’t want to be leaving it to the latter stages,” said all-rounder Croft, who starred on his home ground at Blackpool on Sunday with a superb 61 not out in the win over Notts.

“We want to get it done and dusted. Then, once we’re there, we can play some really good and exciting cricket with no pressure of thinking, ‘We’ve got to get this win to qualify’.”

                                 

They have a fabulous record at Emirates Old Trafford, which amazingly hasn’t hosted a home quarter-final in the last four seasons. 

Three QFs have been away (Kent, Sussex, Somerset) and the other, when due to be at home, was moved to Durham because of a clash with a Test Match in 2019. Essex claimed victory at Durham.

If Lancashire finish in the top two places in the North, a home quarter will be hosted at Old Trafford this season between July 6 and 9.

“It would be a great incentive to get a home quarter-final and extend that record,” said Croft. “Historically, it’s always been a great ground for us. 

“Then, once we get to Finals Day, as everyone knows, it’s anyone’s.

“But the important thing this year is that we have been winning on the road because last year we didn’t go too well away from Old Trafford.”

For the last three games, Lancashire have had to do without their England players on ODI duty in the Netherlands, and will have to do so again for this fixture. 

But Croft has praised his team-mates for standing up to the challenge of availability disruption, adding: “To still win without them (England players) is a great sign for the club.

“The likes of who we’re missing, they leave a pretty big hole. But testament to the lads who’ve come in from the squad, it’s very competitive.

“I can’t imagine it’s easy for Chappie and co to pick the team at those times. But credit to the lads.”

How’s Stat! 

This fixture is set to be Lancashire’s 100th across all formats at Blackpool’s Stanley Park ground, discounting those abandoned without a ball bowled.

The first was in 1905 and includes 87 first-class games, 11 one-day List A fixtures and - assuming the weather holds firm - two T20s.

Meanwhile, the Red Rose are on a 12-game unbeaten streak in T20 home matches dating back to the end of the 2020 Blast campaign.

 

 
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