After 13 games packed in to six hectic weeks, the T20 Blast group stage has reached its final night with six teams still fighting for the three remaining qualification places in the North Group.
Lancashire face Birmingham at Old Trafford on Friday night, with both sides knowing that only a win will give them any chance of making it through to the quarter-finals.
For the Lightning, they need something resembling a miracle in terms of results elsewhere to see them through. They need to beat Birmingham and hope that two of Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Northants lose, as well as potentially needing to improve their net run rate.
In short, it’s a very tall order for Glen Chapple’s men, who kept alive their qualification hopes with an impressive victory over Worcestershire on Wednesday.
Jos Buttler and Liam Livingstone guided the Lightning home, but the win didn’t provide a significant boost to their net run rate and Yorkshire’s emphatic win against Northants on Thursday provided another hit to their qualification chances.
Birmingham are currently in the top four and know that a victory at Old Trafford will keep them there. Defeat though will almost-certainly see the Bears miss out on the knockout phase, making this clash a pivotal one for both teams.
Lancashire’s undoing for much of this season’s T20 Blast has been the absence of a batsman who is capable of batting through and guiding their innings. On Friday night Liam Livingstone played that role, ably assisted by Jos Buttler, ensuring that a modest total was chased down on a tricky pitch. Livingstone’s 36 from 37 balls didn’t include a single boundary but was exactly the innings his side needed from him and it’s something Lancashire will want to see more from their young opener.
Jeetan Patel became the first player to play 100 T20 matches for Birmingham Bears this week and remains one of the finest bowlers in limited-overs cricket. He has again underlined his value to the side this year. His 19 wickets have come at a fairly-miserly economy rate of 6.47 and he continues to spearhead the Bears T20 attack. He should find assistance from an Old Trafford pitch that is conducive to spin bowling.
Lancashire Squad: TBA
Birmingham Squad: TBA
Weather and Conditions
There is heavy rain forecast for just before the start of the match, so there could at least be a delay to proceedings and more showers could occur throughout the match. Old Trafford tends to be a slow, turning pitch for T20 games and that favours Lancashire’s spin attack.
Date: August 18th 2017
Ground: Emirates Old Trafford
Odds (SkyBet): Lancashire 1/1, Birmingham 4/5