Lancashire are on unfamiliar territory for their home Royal London One-Day Cup clash with Northants, as they make the short trip up the M62 to Aigburth in the first taste of out-ground county cricket action for 2017.
Unfortunately for Lancashire, they find themselves in the all-too-familiar territory propping up the One-Day Cup North Group table. It’s where they finished last season and their poor run in 50-over cricket goes on.
2012 was the last time they progressed beyond the group stage and disappointing defeat at home to Leicestershire, followed by a meek surrender in the Roses clash with Yorkshire, has made it unlikely they will end that run this season.
But they do have the incentive of moving up the table with a win against Northants. Lancashire are the only side to have played just twice so far, and victory would lift them above their opponents – who are yet to win in their opening three matches.
Northants couldn’t have come much closer to a victory on Wednesday however, as their thrilling encounter with Worcestershire at Wantage Road ended in a draw. The Rapids couldn’t see out the win despite Northants needing 14 from the last over – as the final ball went for a bye to leave the scores tied.
It comes after a difficult start to the campaign for the Steelbacks, who topped the North Group last season, with a comprehensive loss to Warwickshire being followed by defeat at Derbyshire.
Northants have had a century-maker in both of their last two matches, Richard Levi and Rob Newton, while Lancashire’s Haseeb Hameed is the Lightning’s top scorer with 88 against Leicestershire.
Hameed is expected to open the batting, in just his third white-ball game, after the failed experiment of opening with Luke Procter against Yorkshire.
Lancashire have got to somehow find a formula for success in 50-over cricket. One man who is key to their hopes is opener and wicketkeeper Alex Davies. The 22-year-old has backed up his impressive Championship form, where he has two centuries in the first three matches, by looking smooth at the top of the order against the white ball.
But scores of just 41 and 43 will frustrate Davies and Lancashire need a bigger contribution from their opener in this match.
Northants managed to take just four wickets in their opening two matches, after failing to take any Warwickshire wickets in the first game. But against Worcestershire, Mohammad Azharullah stepped up to the plate and delivered three wickets – his first in white ball cricket this season. Northants could do with more from their experienced seamer and will look to him to spearhead the attack against Lancashire.
Steven Croft returns to the fold after missing the opening two games through injury. He will take over the captaincy duties from Liam Livingstone. Spinner Arron Lilley hasn’t played so far in the competition, but may feature if Lancashire decide on a change of approach.
Lancashire Squad: Steven Croft (C), James Anderson, Tom Bailey, Karl Brown, Jordan Clark, Alex Davies (wk), Haseeb Hameed, Simon Kerrigan, Ryan McLaren, Danny Lamb, Liam Livingstone, Arron Lilley, Stephen Parry, Luke Procter, Dane Vilas
Alex Wakely will skipper the side as normal, while seamer Nathan Buck could be included against his former side.
Northants Squad: Azharullah, Nathan Buck, Josh Cobb, Steven Crook, Richard Gleeson, Max Holden, Rob Keogh, Rory Kleinveldt, Richard Levi, Adam Rossington (wk), Rob Newton, Ben Sanderson, Alex Wakely (c), Graeme White, Saif Zaib
Weather and conditions
It looks set to be a glorious day in Liverpool, with sunshine throughout the match and balmy temperature peaking at around 15°C. So little county cricket is played at Aigburth it’s hard to know what the pitch will hold.
Date: 5th May 2017
Ground: Aigburth, Liverpool
Umpires: Russell Evans & David Milns
Odds (SkyBet): Lancashire 8/11, Northants 11/10