MATCH PREVIEW: Leicestershire Foxes v Lancashire Lightning
Lancashire have raced out of the blocks at the start of the Vitality Blast, winning four of five games so far, a run started by the opening night Roses tie at Emirates Old Trafford.
Leicestershire Foxes v Lancashire Lightning
Vitality Blast, North Group
Tuesday June 7, 2022, 6.30pm
Uptonsteel County Ground, Grace Road
If you look at the previous North Group tables, generally speaking seven wins from 14 will qualify you for the quarter-finals. So, if things go swimmingly on the road this week, Dane Vilas and co could be virtually in the last eight come Friday evening.
The North Group leading Lightning (nine points) travel to Leicestershire this evening (7 June), we face Yorkshire at Headingley on Wednesday and then clash with Durham at the Riverside on Friday evening.
That Durham game marks the last before a brief return to County Championship cricket for a week.
Easier said than done, of course. But why not?
Leicestershire are in decent form themselves having won three of six games at the start of the competition. The latest was by 26 runs defending a target of 163 at Worcestershire yesterday afternoon.
Leicestershire set the pace when T20 cricket was introduced in 2003, winning three titles out of the first nine seasons (2004, 2006 and 2011).
On each occasion, Paul Nixon, now their coach, was in the victorious team as wicketkeeper.
Unfortunately, aside from the odd crack at the quarter-finals, they have not really made an impression on the competition since.
This season, they have made an encouraging start, winning three of their six matches so far, losing three.
They have signed New Zealand opener Hamish Rutherford as their other overseas, while South African-born Dutch international batter Colin Ackermann is their Blast captain.
Former Lancashire age-group left-arm spinner and captain Callum Parkinson, Matt’s twin brother, is a key part of their bowling attack and has also been given the honour of skippering their County Championship team this season.
Opposing player to watch:
Rehan Ahmed, the 17-year-old leg-spinner, shot to fame during the England Under 19s run to the World Cup final in the West Indies through January and early February, taking a stunning 4-41 in the semi-final win over Afghanistan.
With 19 to win, four wickets in hand and five overs remaining chasing 231, Afghanistan were in control. But he took three wickets in the 46th over to all but seal England’s progression.
Ahmed has since made his first-class debut for Leicestershire in a Championship game against Worcestershire last month.
A spinner with a bustling run-up and a quick action, he debuted for the Foxes in last season’s Royal London Cup and struck with his first ball in T20 cricket against Durham on a couple of weeks ago.
Last week, he starred with 3-36 and 19 not out - he is a handy batter - in their win over Birmingham at Edgbaston.
Finn Allen hit a superb unbeaten 73 to underpin a 16-run Lancashire win against the Foxes at Emirates Old Trafford (June 10) last year.
Liam Livingstone, Jos Buttler and Steven Croft posted a trio of cameos in the twenties, but Allen was the significant contributor to a commanding score of 172-8.
Former Lancashire Blast-winning seamer Gavin Griffiths impressed with 4-24 for the visitors.
In reply, the Foxes got off to a flyer at 47-0 inside five overs, including 34 of them to Australian Josh Inglis. But spin was key to the Lightning dragging things back as regular wickets fell.
Leicestershire were 88-4 inside 13 overs, with wickets falling to Danny Lamb, Livingstone, Tom Hartley and Matt Parkinson.
Opener Scott Steel (54) shared 52 for the fifth wicket with Rishi Patel (32) to revive hopes for the visitors, but Parkinson struck an important blow to remove the latter as the score fell to 140-5 with 13 balls remaining.
Leg-spinner Parkinson finished with 2-30 from four overs, and the Lightning were able to close things out as their visitors finished on 156-5.
What they said:
Tim David admits he is enjoying the different challenge of games coming “thick and fast” in the Vitality Blast.
The Singapore-born Australian is a regular fixture on the global T20 circuit, playing in competitions such as the Big Bash, the Pakistan Super League, the Caribbean Premier League and the Indian Premier League, where games are spaced out a touch more.
Here, in the Blast, things are a bit different. Take this week as an example. Lancashire play Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday in the North Group.
As things stand, though, it is working in our favour as the momentum created by early wins is serving the side well.
David, who has hit 174 runs at a strike-rate of 179 in five matches so far, said: “I’ve enjoyed it. It’s been a bit of a challenge; getting up for a game on consecutive days.
“The games come and thick and fast, and it provides a different challenge to other franchise tournaments where you maybe have a little bit more analysis of the opposition and you have more prep time.
“It’s been tough, but the lads have been really good and welcoming into the changing room. I’ve really enjoyed being part of the side.”
After tomorrow’s clash with Leicestershire, it is the big one at Headingley on Wednesday - a repeat of David’s debut at Emirates Old Trafford on May 27 when he scored 35 in a tie.
“The Yorkshire game was awesome,” he added. “I was glad we were at home. I’ve heard it’s slightly different when we play away!
“But it’s awesome to play in those sorts of atmospheres. You have the most fun, and you can get energy from the crowd if you are lacking it on the field.
“Those are the games you want to be involved in.”
Liam Livingstone (1,953) needs 47 runs to become the third Lancashire player to reach 2,000 T20 runs for the county. The first was Steven Croft, the second Karl Brown.
Livingstone is currently fourth on the list of Lightning leading run-scorers in Blast history. Croft (4,015) leads the way, followed by Brown (2,188) and Tom Smith (1,968).