Foxes down Northants to keep Blast hopes alive

Mark Cosgrove and Cameron Delport starred as Leicesteshire’s experienced heads kept alive their hopes of qualifying from in the Natwest T20 Blast, beating Northamptonshire by 48 runs at Wantage Road, the Foxes first win in six games.

Since winning their opening four group games, Leicestershire had fallen to five defeats, with a washout in between, but Delport hit 59, followed by Mark Cosgrove’s 79 as the Foxes posted 193-5.

Adam Rossington hit 67 for the Steelbacks, who were well in the hunt at 103-2 from 12 overs, but spectacularly collapsed, Delport removing 3-19 with his medium pace as the hosts lost five wickets for eight runs, eventually falling well short.

The win sees Leicstershire move to 11 points, just two from the top four, and a campaign that looked to be coming off the rails now has hope, ahead of a crunch tie against Yorkshire at Grace Road tomorrow afternoon.

Northants meanwhile will be looking over their shoulders. Birmingham’s defeat at Trent Bridge means they remain second, but their cushion to fifth place is now a single point, as the North group looks set to go to the wire next week.

Steelbacks captain Alex Wakely pulled no punches in describing his sides poor display, but is hopeful they can bounce back at Yorkshire next Thursday, before finishing at home to Durham.

“We’ve been very poor tonight. It could hurt us with the run rate. That’s the frustrating thing for me tonight,” he said. “We’re still in a good position. If we can win one or two we’re pretty much going to be there.

“But tonight we haven’t put in a very good performance at all. We were poor with the ball and never got going with the back, apart from Rosso who played a superb innings to keep us in it.

“It’s the nature of T20. I’m happy we’ve got our bad performance out the way.

“We’ve got two crunch games next week. We’ve been pretty lucky: we’ve usually picked up wickets in the powerplay. Today we didn’t, and you’re always trying to claw it back.

“One of the things we’ve been good at at Northants is bouncing back from defeats, so hopefully we can do so again.”

For all of Leicestershire’s dominance pretty much throughout the contest, it could have been different had Cosgrove been run out when on just three.

Luke Ronchi and Delport had got the Foxes off to a flyer, adding 50 in the first five overs, Delport pulling Rory Kleivneldt for back to back sixes, before the latter fell to a fine Rob Keogh catch, running backwards from points.

With the score 58-1 from the powerplay, it was the next over when Cosgrove tried to drop and run into the off side, and the Australian had given up by the time Steven Crook reached the ball, but his throw on the turn was wide of the stumps.

Instead, Ronchi and Cosgrove could build on the opening stand as Northants once against struggled for penetration in the middle overs. Their lack of spin options was showing, as Ronchi added further maximums against Crook and Keogh.

Ronchi went to 50 in 30 balls, one of his more measured knocks, only to hole out as Sanderson returned.

Cosgrove carried on his way, and Wakely’s decision to bowl Zaif Saib’s left arm spin in the 15th over backfired as Cosgrove lifted two sixes to go to his half century.

Colin Ackermann, caught behind off Azharullah, and Luke Wells, comically run out by Gleeson in his follow through after keeper Rossington had missed, fell in quick succession. But Lewis Hill joined Cosgrove to add 30.

Gleeson was economical, as his last two overs cost five apiece, but it couldn’t stop the Foxes passing 190, Cosgrove with his fourth six off Azharullah in the last before being run out attempting to keep strike.

However, 193 would prove more than enough, as Northants never really recovered from falling to 19-2 in the third over.

Levi pulled Clint McKay for six in the opening over, but in the second toe ended a slog sweep off the spin of Callum Parkinson to hole out to deep midwicket for 12, before Duckett was trapped LBW to McKay second ball.

Rossington kept the boundary count flowing, eight inside the powerplay as the Steelbacks reached 54-2 and with Alex Wakely they kept hopes alive, going to the halfway point 85-2.

However, it only needed a tight couple of overs, and with 91 needed from 8 overs something had to give. Wakely couldn’t quite clear the leg side boundary, Wells taking the catch on the edge of the rope.

Rossington then also picked out Wells, this time at long-on off Delport, an even better catch leaning back on the edge of the rope. From that point the hosts capitulated, Rossington having hit 10 fours and a six in his 47 balls knock.

Keogh followed Rossington’s suit later in Delport’s over, to give Wells a third catch. Kleinveldt slapped Pillans to mid-off and, when Delport bowled Zaib sweeping, five wickets had fallen for eight runs in 17 balls.

The rest proved a formality as Steven Crook and Ben Sanderson played out the remaining five overs, only reducing the margin of defeat as the packed home crowd went off into the night.

T20 Blast Preview: Northamptonshire v Leicestershire

Northamptonshire Steelbacks will look to move a step closer to a quarter-final berth in the Natwest T20 Blast on Friday night as they host the Leicestershrie Foxes, who desperately need a win to revitalise their campaign.

The Foxes started off with four straight away wins, having started on the road due to hosting the Women’s World Cup, and a spot in the knock-out stages for the first time since their 2011 title triumph seemed a mere formality.

But since their return to Grace Road was dampened by the Steelbacks, and the weather – Leicestershire having fallen just behind on D/L when rain intervened – their form has nose dived. They’ve had two further defeats (and a no result) on home turf, with a thrashing at Derby in-between.

It leaves’ Clint McKay’s side four points off the top four in seventh and, although they have a game in hand, with ties against Yorkshire and in form Notts in the final week, a sixth defeat in a row will all but end their campaign.

For Northants, the defending Champions once again look well set to quality after back to back wins. A defeat to Birmingham had left them looking over their shoulder, but the Steelbacks bounced back to beat Lancashire and Worcester, and move into second.

They have a three point cushion over Yorkshire and Lancashire in fifth and six, and with the Roses rivals facing each other tonight also, one win will likely be enough to qualify. The Steelbacks will also have one eye on a home tie, with a trip to Yorkshire, followed by hosting bottom of the table Durham on the final round.

Those last two victories were particularity impressive given Alex Wakely’s side had to defend, something which has been a weakness, especially given their spin bowling injury crisis, but Richard Gleeson’s return to form with the new ball has been a major factor.

The win at Grace Road last month was Northants fifth in a row against the Foxes, for whom the last win in this fixture came in 2011, and the Steelbacks look to complete the East Midlands double for the third year in a row.

Key men

As mentioned above Richard Gleeson has been back to his best in recent weeks. After being the breakthrough bowler of the 2016 campaign, he struggled to get going this year after an injury hit winter and an early season. But after taking only a single wicket in the opening five games of the Blast, the last four have brought nine, hitting up to 90mph, he has proved a genuine wicket taking threat in the powerplay, helping to reduce Lancs to 24-5 on the way to victory last week.

Colin Ackermann started the competition in top form, averaging 59 with the bat and 11.4 during Leicestershire’s opening four wins, but has since tailed off – like the team. With Northants’ weakness proving to be the middle overs, Ackermann will be key if the Foxes are to take advantage, whilst his bowling gives captain McKay extra options.

Team news

Muhammed Azharullah return to the Northants side for the first time in the Blast this season last week, but Nathan Buck missed the win at Worcestershire with injury, whilst the injured duo of Graeme White and Josh Cobb remain on the sidelines, leaving the Steelbacks light in the spin bowling department, with Simon Kerrigan’s loan agreement only covering Championship cricket.

Northamptonshire squad: TBC

Mark Cosgrove ended Leicestershire’s last game batting with a runner, but despite missing this week’s Championship clash, he is fit for Friday night, whilst McKay and Matthew Pillans also included after having been rested against Durham. This means the Foxes name an unchanged 14 man squad from the defeat against Lancashire.

Leicestershire squad: Clint McKay (c), Aadil Ali, Colin Ackermann, Mark Cosgrove Cameron Delport, Ned Eckersley, Gavin Griffiths, John Hill, Deiter Klein, Callum Parkinson, Matt Pillans, Luke Ronchi, Tom Sayer, Luke Wells

Weather and conditions

After a rather wet start to the week, which washed out the final two days of the Championship game at Wantage Road, the rain finally relented on Thursday and Friday is set to remain dry, but it will be cloudy throughout with temperatures in the high teens. T20 pitches have been something of a mixed bag at Wantage Road this year, with Northants favouring a bit of assistance to the seamers, understandable given their lack of fit spinners, and this could continue. This, together with an outfield bound to be on the slow side, could lead to a lower scoring contest than usual.

Venue: Wantage Road, Northamptonshire
Date: Friday August 11
Time: 6:30pm
Odds: Northants 4/7, Leicestesrhier 11/8

Derbyshire eye T20 quarter final spot

If you look in a thesaurus under the word “restricted” it says curbed, suppressed, impeded and chained, after today it should also have the phrase “Derbyshire Falcons vs Leicestershire Foxes Natwest T20 30th July 2017.” It may not be catchy or drip off the tongue, but it is accurate, with Gary Wilson’s men restricting the Foxes to just 104 for 9 off their full twenty overs.

The day started well for Wilson as he won the toss and opted to bowl first, on a pitch which was offering something for the bowlers and proved difficult for the Foxes batsmen to get away and score their runs throughout the innings.

The innings saw Leicestershire fail to score a boundary between the fourth ball of the 10th over and the first ball of the 20th.  This period also saw the loss of six wickets for just 46 runs in one of the most complete bowling and fielding displays possible. Every bowler contributed to the supressed nature of the innings, sharing the wickets out, but the stand out figures went to overseas star Matt Henry who finished his four overs with figures of 3 for 18.

Equally as impressive as the bowling display was the fielding which was crisp and precise amongst all the Falcon’s fielders, but Alex Hughes was superb taking three catches and saving a number of runs in the field with his aggressive and athletic out fielding.

Leicestershire’s batsmen had to try and force the pace throughout and a great number fell trying to do this, none more so that big hitting Mark Cosgrove who was run out by Matt Critchley looking for a run which simply wasn’t there.

When the Foxes look at the scorecard at the end of the day, missing runs will be what sticks out to them as they posted their lowest total vs Derbyshire in T20 cricket, a total which was never going to be enough to trouble a Falcons batting line up which has fired more often than not this season in the Blast.

The Falcons did however look in a little bit of trouble at 21 for 3 half way through the third over, and Critchley also back in the pavilion retired hurt after being struck on the helmet by a Dieter Klein bouncer. This however brought together Wayne Madsen, this season’s stand out batsmen for the Falcons and Hughes to the crease who put together an unbeaten stand of 86 to guide the Falcons home in 13.5 overs. Madsen agonisingly finished on 49, one run short of becoming the first Derbyshire batsman to score four half centuries in a T20 season.

The most striking difference in the two innings was the ease of which Madsen and Hughes found the boundary and were able to keep the score ticking over, with the pair only failing to find the boundary in three of the ten overs they were together for, which put the game out of the reach of the Leicestershire foxes. Both struck the ball beautifully, Hughes striking a glorious straight six off Gavin Griffiths and Madsen playing two delightful ramp shots over the keeper, one of which to bring up the victory.

This defeat leaves the foxes without a win in their last four games and still lying in sixth place in the table, while Derbyshire find themselves in second place on 11 points and dreaming of a quarter final place for the first time since 2005. Next up for the Foxes is the visit of the Notts Outlaws to the Fischer County Ground, not the best side to face when you are looking for your first win in five, while Derbyshire will travel to Headingley for a top of the table clash looking to cement their place in the top two and a home quarter final.

T20 Blast Preview: Derbyshire Falcons vs Leicestershire Foxes

Derbyshire welcome Leicestershire to the 3aaa County Ground on Sunday, finding themselves in fourth place in the table and the visitors in sixth, separated by one point, although the foxes have played a game less. The Foxes will be hoping to put an end to their recent run of three defeats, and the Falcons will be hoping to build on their victory in their last completed match against Lancashire.

A win for both sides will greatly enhance their chances of being in the final four, for Leicestershire a win will leave them on 10 points and potentially as high as second in the group, for Derbyshire a win would move them to 11 points and potentially up to 1st in the table. Sadly, looking at the forecast, it is more likely that each side will take a point and the status quo will remain.

Both sides have shown flashes of genius in this competition this year, but also glimpses of being distinctly average. They will both be looking to show more of the brilliance on a more consistent basis, a basis which would cement their place in the qualifying places and see them reach the quarter finals.

The quarter finals are somewhere the visitors are used to finding themselves, whereas the hosts are far less frequent visitors to the knock out stages and will be looking to put that right this season.

What happens on Sunday will go a long way to deciding the outcome of the qualifying group stages, and it will be tight: even the bookies can’t separate them. Sadly the only thing that may separate the sides on Sunday will be a dressing room wall as the rain forces them to stay indoors, but forecasters can be wrong, so fingers crossed for a game.

Key Men

Before the T20 season started Falcons fans were concerned they had no one at the top of the order to set their innings off to a flyer: no McCullum, Guptil or Finch. They were right in they didn’t have any of those, but what they do have is Luis Reece.

Reece has been a revelation in T20 cricket this season, scoring 287 runs at a strike rate of 140 and an average of 57.40, giving the innings impetus, not in the same way as those big hitters, but in an elegant, sublime way a way that makes you look at the scorecard and wonder how he suddenly has 40 of 23 balls. Throw in his ability to bowl nippy left arm medium pace, and his performance is key to Derbyshire succeeding at T20 cricket.

In the modern game, if you haven’t got a hard hitting wicketkeeper batsman then you are about as out of fashion as double denim. Luckily for the Foxes, they have overseas player Luke Ronchi. The now retired New Zealand international gives them impetus at the start of the innings and is their leading run scorer in the competition this season, with 162 runs at an average of 27 and an impressive strike rate of 158. Consider the experience he has in the field as well, and he is key to the success of this foxes side.

Team News

Derbyshire have named an unchanged squad for the game and are unlikely to play a different eleven to the one that triumphed against Lancashire on Tuesday.

Leicestershire announced the same squad that lost to Durham last time out, but will be hoping for a different result. They are still without all rounder Ben Raine, who continues to be side lined by injury. They have no additional injury concerns.

Derbyshire Falcons squad: G Wilson (c), C Brodrick, B Cotton, M Critchley, B Godleman, M Henry, A Hughes, W Madsen, H Qadri, L Reece, D Smit (wk), I Tahir, H Viljoen, T Wood

Leicestershire Foxes squad: McKay (c), Aadil, Ackermann, Cosgrove, Delport, Griffiths, Hill, Klein, Parkinson, Pettini, Pillans, Ronchi (wk), Sayer, Wells

Form

Derbyshire Falcons: AWLLWL
Leicestershire Foxes: LLLWWW

Weather and conditions

The forecast for this Sunday’s game is that of sunshine, showers, Duckworth and Lewis I’m afraid. If the game does get underway then it will no doubt be a shortened affair. The pitches at Derby have produced plenty of runs and if there is a game on Sunday then we should be in for more of the same, although with the amount of moisture that has been around there is a chance the pitch maybe a little livelier and have more in it for the bowlers.

Date: 30th July 2017
Time: 14:30
Ground: 3aaa County Ground, Derby
Umpires: Hartley and Llong
Odds (SkyBet): Derbyshire Falcons 10/11 Leicestershire Foxes 10/11

T20 Blast Preview: Leicestershire Foxes v Durham Jets

 

King Canute, Davy Crockett at the Alamo and Wile E. Coyote with the Road Runner all stood more of a chance of winning their respective battles than the Durham Jets did at the start of this Natwest T20 Blast competition, with the ECB docking them 4 points before a ball had been bowled.

Their form during the competition has done little to alter their situation, failing to win any of their first six games and they sit rooted to the foot of the table still on minus four points.

Leicestershire, on the other hand, could be compared to Rocky Balboa, the Jamaican bobsleigh team or their footballing counterparts as underdogs who regularly perform above their station. This season is no different as they currently sit fourth in the table at the time of writing and a good victory tonight could see them top the table as they turn the changing room lights out at the Fischer County Ground tonight.

The Foxes however will be looking to arrest a recent dip in form, having lost their last two fixtures, both of which have been at home and will be hoping the visit of North Group basement dwellers Durham gives them the perfect opportunity to do this.

When the sides met earlier in the season it was a comfortable win for Leicestershire by 27 runs and if the weather stays away everything, including the bookies, suggest they are the clear favourites for this one as well.

Key Men

In the modern game if you haven’t got a hard hitting wicketkeeper batsman then you are about as out of fashion as double denim. Luckily for the Foxes they have overseas player Luke Ronchi. The now-retired New Zealand international gives them impetus at the start of the innings and is their leading run scorer in the competition this season, with 162 runs at an average of 27 and an impressive strike rate of 158. Throw in the experience he has in the field too and he is key to the success of this foxes side.

If you have players that can contribute with both bat and ball, then in T20 you are laughing. Durham have a few who can, but this season Ryan Pringle has come to the fore, taking 7 wickets at an average of 18 and at a reasonably miserly economy rate of 7.41. Only the evergreen Paul Collingwood has a lower economy rate amongst regular bowlers. Pringle has also scored 62 runs, which may not sound a lot, but coming in down the order at a strike rate of 102.33 is more than handy. If his off spin can continue to show control and take wickets along with lower order runs, then his performance will be key to Durham breaking their duck this season.

Team News

Leicestershire Foxes: Leicestershire have no new injury worries or concerns to contend with and will realistically name an unchanged squad for this fixture.

Leicestershire Foxes squad: McKay (c), Aadil, Ackermann, Cosgrove, Delport, Griffiths, Hill, Klein, Parkinson, Pettini, Pillans, Ronchi (wk), Sayer, Wells.

Durham Jets: Durham will again be without Keaton Jennings and Mark Wood who are away with England or injured. Joining Wood on the physio’s couch is overseas player Tom Latham who is still to make an appearance for the Jets this season. Apart from this, Durham have no new injury concerns coming into the game.

Durham Jets squad: TBA

Form

Leicestershire Foxes: LLWWWW

Durham Jets: LLLLLL

Weather and conditions

This game may see Durham gain their first point of the season, not through their cricketing prowess, but through the weather. Rain is forecast from 6pm onwards through the night and if it is to be believed there will be a lot of thumbs being twiddled and crosswords completed before Durham head back up the A1. If they do get on, the pitches at Grace Road have produced decent scores, however with rain about there may be a bit more assistance for the bowlers.

Date: 28th July 2017

Time: 18:30

Ground: Fischer County Ground, Grace Road

Umpires: Warren and Lloyds

Odds (SkyBet): Leicestershire 2/5, Durham 15/8

 

Leicestershire start Blast campaign with last ball victory at Liverpool

Liverpool may have been the centre of the football world on Sunday, with the return of one of the city’s most famous sons Wayne Rooney to his boyhood club Everton from Manchester United.

But at Aigburth, Liverpool’s cricket ground, it was the side who had de-camped from Manchester just for this game who were the star attraction.

With the sun beating down, a lightning fast outfield, a glorious backdrop, two high-quality teams and a thrilling last-ball finish, the T20 Blast’s visit to the birthplace of the Beatles had all the ingredients you could ever want.

For a while it looked as though it would be Leicestershire who needed ‘Help’ as Lancashire’s dangerous duo of Jos Buttler and Liam Livingstone hit it ‘Here, There and Everywhere’ around Aigburth.

But some excellent bowling from Leicestershire dragged the Lightning back to a below-par total on a small ground with a rapid outfield, one which the Foxes chased down from the final ball thanks to an excellent half-century from Colin Ackermann.

Having inserted Lancashire, Foxes skipper Clint McKay wanted early inroads and provided them himself, getting Karl Brown caught behind in the first over for just four.

From there, the powerplay was a story of runs flowing and wickets falling. Arron Lilley fell for an entertaining cameo of 30 from just 17 balls while Steven Croft departed for a first-ball duck.

At the end of the first six overs Lancashire were 53-3. Then it was time for the Buttler-Livingstone show.

The pair put on a showcase of T20 batting, hitting all parts of the ground in a stand of 72 from only 37 balls. It was the kind of batting that the near 4000 spectators had come to Liverpool to see and demonstrated everything that is good about this form of the game.

When Matthew Parkinson ended the stand in the 13th over by removing Buttler, Lancashire were 112-4 and the wheels rather fell off their innings.

They only managed one more boundary in their 20 overs. The Foxes took four wickets in the next five overs as Livingstone departed for a well-made 48 from 33 balls and Dane Vilas and Jordan Clark fell cheaply.

Danny Lamb offered some lower-order resistance with 22, but when Tom Bailey was run out off the final ball Lancashire will have been disappointed to only reach 173-9 from their 20 overs. Especially having been in such a strong position when Buttler and Livingstone were firing.

There were thoughts that Leicestershire would reach that target with plenty in the tank as they set off like a train in the powerplay.

After just three overs they had reached 38-0. Two wickets in three balls got Lancashire going, as Danny Lamb dismissed Cameron Delport and Stephen Parry picked up the dangerous overseas star Luke Ronchi – both caught by Steven Croft.

The two sides mirrored each other pretty closely throughout the innings and Lancashire had as much trouble dealing with the hard outfield as the Foxes did.

Mark Cosgrove was giving the impression that Aigburth wasn’t big enough for him, advancing the score from 58-2 at the end of the powerplay to 103-3 when he departed for a well made 34 in the 11th over.

Leicestershire looked in control of their chase but Lancashire began to chip away. Ned Eckersley fell to Parry, before Tom Wells was on his way as well.

With two overs remaining, Leicestershire needing 16 to win with four wickets in hand. The tension and atmosphere was building.

Mathew Pillans played a crucial role in the Foxes’ success, launching the final ball of the penultimate over for six. That left an equation of six needed from the last over.

Still Lancashire wouldn’t give up, restricting the batsmen to singles before Jarvis dismissed Pillans to leave two needed from the last ball of the match.

Cue Ackermann, who belted the ball away over cover for a maximum to seal the win and prompt raucous celebrations from the travelling side. Ackermann had made 64 from 41 and was rightly delighted with his performance.

“Delport and Ronchi set a beautiful platform for myself to come in and play with freedom,” he said.

“You have to come in with good intent to hit the ball and run hard.

“I think on this wicket you just had to keep it simple and my midset was to stand still and just hit that last ball.

“We’ve had a couple of tough weeks but this is the cherry on top now. We deserved this win, we’ve worked really hard. You have to take it game by game, we look at the positives and build on that.”

Lancashire captain Steven Croft was less thrilled with the result, but believes his side played some good cricket despite the defeat.

“Very disappointing to lose the game, he said. “We weren’t quite there in all disciplines, we made some bad decisions at crucial times and probably didn’t deserve to win the game.

“We had a competitive total not knowing what a good total was. I thought we were a bit off with the ball. I don’t think it was a shocking performance, we just made some mistakes at crucial times.”

 

 

T20 Blast Preview: Lancashire Lightning v Leicestershire Foxes

Lancashire host three-time T20 champions Leicestershire in somewhat unfamiliar surroundings as the Blast rolls in to Liverpool this afternoon.

Old Trafford’s decision to host the Radiohead concert, relocated from the Manchester Arena last week, meant that their first T20 home game had to be moved – and Aigburth, Liverpool, got the nod.

It’s an opportunity to showcase T20 cricket around more of the county, drawing in extra fans who may otherwise not be able to attend matches at Old Trafford. It’s also something that is likely to happen more regularly when the new city-based T20 competition launches in 2020.

2015 champions Lancashire will make the short trip up the M62 full of confidence, after a thumping 52-run win over last year’s finalists Durham at Chester-le-Street on Friday night.

Jos Buttler’s 39-ball 59 helped the Lightning post a strong total of 192-6 which, ultimately, proved too much for the Jets to chase down. Three wickets from Jordan Clark helped Lancashire to the win that puts them top of the fledgling North Group table.

Leicestershire meanwhile were the only side in the North Group not to feature on the opening day of the competition, and will be itching to get cracking at the format that they have excelled in since its inception in 2003.

The Foxes have more titles to their name than any other side but haven’t reached Finals Day since 2011 – a run that they will be keen to end in 2017.

They will boast firepower with the addition of the explosive New Zealand keeper-batsman Luke Ronchi as overseas star, and will hope he can prove the spark to reverse their recent T20 dip.

If Ronchi, along with Lancashire’s powerful ball-strikers, including Jos Buttler and Jordan Clark, get firing on Sunday Liverpool will be in for a T20 treat.

Key Men

Lancashire don’t get the benefit of his services too often, due to his England commitments, but Jos Buttler proved how valuable he is with his performance on Friday. Full of lusty blows, reverse scoops and dabs, Buttler demonstrated he is the ultimate 360° T20 batsman. His omission from England’s Test plans mean he will be available for the whole of the group stage for Lancashire and could be the difference maker in seeing the Lightning through to the knockout phase.

Leicestershire’s other overseas player for 2017 is experienced Australian Clint McKay. He will skipper the T20 outfit and is integral to everything the Foxes do, especially his value with the ball. The 34-year-old seamer has 65 white-ball caps for Australia to his name and Leicestershire will rely on his vast talent and experience.

Team News

Seamer Saqib Mahmood picked up a side injury in the win over Durham and has been replaced in the squad by Danny Lamb. That’s the only change to Friday’s squad.

Lancashire Lightning: Steven Croft (C), Tom Bailey, Jos Buttler (W), Karl Brown, Jordan Clark, Kyle Jarvis, Rob Jones, Danny Lamb, Arron Lilley, Liam Livingstone, Ryan McLaren, Matthew Parkinson, Stephen Parry, Dane Vilas

Luke Ronchi could make his debut for the Foxes today. Ben Raine and Zak Chappell are unavailable through injury and Neil Dexter misses out due to a personal issue.

Leicestershire Foxes: Clint McKay (c), Aadil Ali, Colin Ackermann, Mark Cosgrove, Cameron Delport, Ned Eckersley, Gavin Griffiths, Lewis Hill, Dieter Klein, Callum Parkinson, Mathew Pillans, Luke Ronchi, Rob Sayer, Tom Wells

Weather and Conditions

All set for a glorious afternoon in Liverpool with sun and temperatures of around 20°. So little county cricket is played at Aigburth it’s difficult to predict conditions but the One-Day Cup match there against Northants was a high-scoring encounter.

Date: July 9th
Time: 2.30pm
Ground: Aigburth, Liverpool
Umpires: Richard Illingworth & Graham Lloyd
Odds (Bet365): Lancashire 4/7, Leicestershire 11/8

The County Championship made its first foray into the dark – but were we tickled pink?

County cricket has just completed its first ever round of day/night Championship fixtures. Featuring floodlights and a pink ball rather than red was always going to provide a vast number of talking points and it certainly didn’t disappoint.

But how did it actually go? Is it worth sticking with and what does it mean for the future of the longer forms of the game?

Here we examine what some are calling cricket’s stab in the dark and consider how the concept actually played out.

Why is day/night cricket happening?

Let’s be clear straight away, the County Championship isn’t leading the way in day/night cricket, nor was this innovation designed to aid the competition. This round of fixtures played under floodlights was primarily scheduled to allow England players to get used to the pink ball ahead of their first ever day/night Test at Edgbaston later this summer.

The Championship was therefore something of a Guinea Pig to allow the international stars to acclimatise.

But that’s not to say that there weren’t potential benefits for the domestic game, with many particularly interested to see whether games starting at 2pm would encourage crowds to grow for the evening session when many could come in after work – often free of charge.

Did the crowds grow?

Deep Extra Cover’s Bradley Adams watched Hampshire v Somerset at the Ageas Bowl: “On Day One, Hampshire reported around 1,300 through the gate before 7pm, at which point entry became free of charge.

“Around 100-200 people entered after that time, but there wasn’t a visible increase and it was clear that a number of spectators left, meaning that it evened itself out as the evening progressed.

“There were a couple of hundred in on the second day but that didn’t have a chance to improve given we went off for rain at 2.52pm and never came back.”

And DEC’s Ciaran Thomas also reported on a similar story at Wantage Road where Northamptonshire took on Leicestershire:

“On Day One we had a larger-than-normal crowd for a Northants game but numbers didn’t seem to massively swell after 5pm, probably peaking around that time and then thinning out as the evening went on, to the point that a large majority had left by the time we finished – shortly after 9pm.

“Certainly there was no sign of a big after work turn out, even with a mild evening, and perhaps the earlier larger crowd was due to the novelty and curiosity about the pink ball.

“The crowd since has been awful, but then the weather probably has quite a large say in that. Plus finishing 9.30 – 10pm four days in a row does make for rather a long week.”

What is it like to watch?

Much of the speculation around these matches has focused on the visibility of the pink ball, primarily for the players but also for the crowds. Cricket is, we shouldn’t forget, a spectator sport.

In particular it was interesting to see whether the pink ball was easily detectable in the period between daylight fading and the floodlights taking over.

Ciaran Thomas: “I’ve found the new ball, both during daylight and under lights, has been fine to see. It glows and stands out pretty well, however the issue is when it’s getting older and it has proved harder to pick out in daylight/early evening.”

Bradley Adams: “Seeing the ball on the opening day, even when the lights came on and the evening was getting later, was generally pretty fine.

“On the third day, however, under very dark skies and without the floodlights on, the 30-odd over old ball was very difficult to see from behind the bowler’s arm, both out of the hand and across the outfield.

“That was around 6pm. Harder to see when it’s had the shine taken off, which doesn’t seem to take a huge amount of time.”

What do those involved think?

The ECB has said that it won’t decide on whether to play another round of these day/night fixtures in 2018 until they have received feedback from player and coaches on what they thought of the innovation this week.

Hampshire’s Liam Dawson believes that there needs to be more focus placed on the ball being used.

“If you are going to keep on using those balls then you are going to get some pretty boring cricket – it just goes very soft, very quickly,” Dawson said.

His opponent Craig Overton was also less than enthusiastic about the pink ball, saying: “The ball was strange. It swings and then goes really soft. It didn’t really do much.”

It seemed that the ball was the main consideration of the views expressed, particularly at the Ageas Bowl but also across other grounds.

“I can just go with what the boys say and they say the ball does go soft. It doesn’t sound like a cricket ball, it sounds like an indoor ball when it hits the bat,” Hampshire Coach Craig White said.

“It’s hard to time and it just feels very soft on the bat when you hit it.”

But White also picked up on the visibility issue from his position observing his team.

“I’m not sure what it’s like for the spectators but I find it hard to follow along the ground. I guess the spectators feel the same about that, you don’t know where the ball’s going so that’s another thing to take into consideration.”

What’s happened to the scores?

In truth, glancing around the scoreboards you probably wouldn’t be able to tell that this was any different to a regular Championship round.

There was a run-fest at Chelmsford, featuring a record-breaking opening stand of 373 between Alastair Cook and Nick Browne, while there were fairly low-scoring matches between Glamorgan and Derbyshire and Hampshire and Somerset.

Weather hasn’t helped by any means, disrupting most matches and wiping some out, including the clash between Yorkshire and Surrey.

Are there any other talking points?

Aside from the obvious changes of a ball and the light conditions, the changes to playing time and conditions throws up some more obscure issues.

For instance, with intervals coming at 4pm and 6.40pm, there has been much discussion around what to call them as well as more logistical issues.

Bradley Adams: “I’m a little unsure as to why we have the long interval first and the shorter one second. Surely, it would make more sense to have 20 minutes at 4pm and then 40 minutes at the second interval where the players and spectators could have a decent amount of time to eat.

“Also, we heard there were no restaurants open past 4.40pm (aka end of interval 1) at the Ageas on the opening day. Obviously not necessarily to do with the cricket itself but something that grounds would need to keep in mind.”

So, is this a good thing?

There were always going to be teething problems with a change such as this, one which is almost entirely new to four-day cricket in this country.

It seems in particular there are things to iron out with regards to the ball itself, both its visibility and the way it lasts throughout an 80-over stint.

Bradley Adams: “I think the format is a good idea but there are kinks that need working out. Most importantly, the ball, which goes soft after not much use and then isn’t great coming off the bat.”

Ciaran Thomas: “From what I’ve seen this week, and it seems a fairly similar story across the country, the expected influx of crowds after work hasn’t happened. But the weather hasn’t helped. I certainly don’t think it’s worth ditching straight away and if it’s going to work at Test level, perhaps one round a year isn’t the worst idea going forward.”

With the first Day/Night Test involving England coming up in August and a general push at international level to give day/night Tests a go, it seems likely that this isn’t the last we will see of day/night Championship matches.

Pink panther Duckett steals the limelight though Northants suffer dusk wobble

Early afternoon at Wantage Road and the talk was all about the pink ball as the historic first round of Championship day-night fixtures got underway, but Ben Duckett stole the show, cracking his first century of the season inside the first session.

This was county cricket’s step into the unknown this week and whilst Northants v Leicestershire might not have provided the headline fixture of the round, it provided an intriguing first day.

The opening session saw Duckett crack 20 boundaries on his way to a better than a run a ball cetnury, and ended with Leicestershire deploying two nightwatchmen as the hosts’ bowlers found plenty of assistance as the lights took over.

It all meant that it was Northants, fresh off four victories in their opening six games, ended the day in the ascendancy as despite collapse from 211-3 to 261 all out they made the most of the twilight conditions to reduce the visitors to 65-4.

A bumper, by Wantage Road standards, crowd turned up to see the action, but numbers peaked at around 5pm before thinning out throughout the duration of the final floodlight session, a trend seemingly repeated across the country.

Duckett was the only man on Northants staff with experience of the pink ball, having played for the MCC in in the Champion County match, and said English contitions gave a different expereince.

“It was very different to here to playing in Abu Daubi, that twilight period and the darkness changes a lot over there, after the twilight it was pitch black which is very difficult to pick up,” he said.

“So it wasn’t quite as hard but it’s much different batting at 2pm than it is at 9:30pm.

“In a way [the collapse] might have worked for us as it’s very tough batting under the lights, we didn’t properly cash in but, with them at 60-4, if we start well we’ll be right in it.

“It’s exciting, it’s different, we got more of a crowd in so people came to watch so I think we’ll see a few more of these games.”

Duckett was county cricket’s man of 2016, winning almost as many accolades as hundreds he’d hit throughout the campaign, but after a challenging winter and stuttering campaign so far, the pink ball brought out the Duckett that burst onto the scene in such spectacular fashion.

Seventeen boundaries were hit by the 22-year-old inside the first hour alone, 12 of which on the way to a half century off 41 balls, as the pink nut disseapred to all corners of Wantage Road, Duckett going on to bring up his century in the final over before lunch, the 4pm interval still officially called so, to visable relief.

“It took a little bit longer than last year but felt good to get there,” he said. “I think everyone would have seen how much this one meant.

“It’s been frustrating, I felt pretty good the last few months and got 50s and got out, we’ve played on some interesting wickets which hasn’t helped and sometimes 60-70s been a good score, but when I got over the line before lunch it was a massive relief.”

Duckett’s innings was part of a Jekyll and Hyde performance from Northants with the bat, as Max Holden played second fiddle with a composed but equally impressive knock from the teenager.

The Middlesex loanee lacked support, Rob Keogh’s 25 the only other score of note, as Northants at once stage lost four wickets in 11 balls for one run, Dieter Klein taking 6-80 as the last seven wickets fell for 50.

However being bowled out shortly into the final session gave Northants 25 overs with the new pink ball as the lights gradually started taking over, with conditions definitely favoring the bowlers much more than earlier in the day.

Paul Horton and Arun Harinath fell before the score reached 14, and when Mark Cosgrove fell, Leicester opted for not just one nightwatchman, but when Rob Sayer was bowled by Azharullah with five overs left, a second in Clint McKay walked to the middle.

He, along with Colin Ackerman survived under the end, but only just as final ball of the day saw the former edge Richard Gleeson to Chesney Hughes, who had earlier been dismissed first ball, only to see the chance shelled, as the curtain came down on the first day of county cricket’s step into the unknown.

SSCC Preview: Derbyshire v Leicestershire

If you are doing some baking over the next four days and need your mixture stirring, then the 3aaa County Ground is the place for you, as Leicestershire visit Derbyshire. These two sides, between them, have collected the wooden spoon for the last four seasons in the County Championship Division Two.

Leicestershire have three to Derbyshire’s one and both will looking to collect their first victory of the season to ensure they do not collect yet another.

Derbyshire currently sit 8th in the table with Leicestershire one place above them, separated by four points, although Leicestershire have played a game more, which means this match has all the ingredients to be a showstopper.

Both sides have had their issues over recent years. Derbyshire are still struggling to replace the wickets of Mark Footitt, who left for the Kia Oval two seasons ago. They will again be without Hardus Viljoen and Will Davis, who are both ruled out through injury until the end of June. This means the onus will fall to the other bowlers to take the 20 wickets required, and especially overseas leg spinner Jeevan Mendis.

Leicestershire have lacked the ability to bowl sides out and put themselves in winning positions, although in their last match Dieter Klein showed that he could be the answer to their issues, bowling well and taking four wickets. They will also be looking for more from Clint McKay, now he has returned to fitness, and hoping the impressive Ned Eckersley can continue his fine form.

Not for the first time this season the bookmakers have Derbyshire as the underdogs, and it is easy to see why. This one is too close to call, though, and a betting man would be keeping his hard earned cash in his pocket. Both sides could win and both sides equally could collapse and lose.

Key Men

As Derbyshire strive to win their first County Championship game in over a year, Jeevan Mendis will be key. Mendis is a genuine international wicket taking threat with his leg spin and can offer some control to captain Billy Godleman. Mendis has so far taken 11 wickets in the County Championship at an average of around 26 and he is capable of scoring useful runs down the order, quickly taking a game away from the opposition.

In the modern game you want your Wicketkeeper to not only be a safe pair of hands behind the stumps, but also be able to score lots of runs too. In Ned Eckersley, that is exactly what Leicestershire have. Eckersley is the club’s leading run scorer, averaging over 45, and has also taken five catches. Having a high quality batsman who is also a quality wicket keeper allows more balance to the side and, for the Foxes, it is key to their success.

Team News:

Derbyshire have named a 14-man squad for this fixture. Gary Wilson returns from international duty, but is struggling with a sore knee so Smit looks set to continue behind the stumps. Viljoen and Davis remain side lined by injury so Godleman will have to use his other bowlers to take those elusive 20 wickets. The surprise inclusion in the squad is Alfie Gleadall, who is young fast bowler who has impressed recently for the second XI.

Leicestershire welcome Ben Raine back to the squad. As the useful all-rounder returns from injury, he will surely add balance to the Leicestershire side. Rob Sayer also returns from injury, with Callum Parkinson and Tom Wells making way. The foxes will be missing Neil Dexter and Richard Jones, who are unavailable through injury, and Charlie Shreck is currently only fit enough for the seconds.

Derbyshire squad: Billy Godleman (c), Alfie Gleadell, Alex Hughes, Rob Hemmings, Charlie MacDonnell, Wayne Madsen, Jeevan Mendis, Tony Palladino, Luis Reece, Ben Slater, Daryn Smit (wk), Tom Taylor, Shiv Thakor. Gary Wilson

Leicestershire squad: Mark Cosgrove (c), Colin Ackermann, Zak Chappell, Harry Dearden, Ned Eckersley, Gavin Griffiths, Lewis Hill, Paul Horton, Dieter Klein, Clint McKay, Mark Pettini, Ben Raine, Rob Sayer

Form

Derbyshire: LLLLD
Leicestershire: DDLLW

Weather and conditions

The weather looks set fair for the four days and, whisper it quietly, but you may even need your sun cream, especially if it goes to the fourth day. The pitches at Derby have generally been flat and true and have not offered a great deal for the bowlers. There has been rain around in the lead up to the match and that may add a bit more spice to the pitch, but generally you can expect runs, runs and runs.

Date: 25th May 2017 to 28th May 2017
Time: 11:00am
Ground: 3aaa County Ground, Derby
Umpires: Millns and Taylor
Odds (SkyBet): Derbyshire: Evens, Leicestershire: 4/5