Leicestershire will be looking to keep Championship disappointments firmly in the back of their mind as the Foxes search for a second Natwest T20 Blast victory of the season when the Durham Jets come calling to Grace Road.
The debate as to whether England’s domestic T20s should be played in a block will rumble on for what feels like evermore, but, for the hosts, a welcome distraction will surely be invaluable with that first Division Two victory since September 2012 still proving illusive.
The Foxes were on the wrong end of a last-ball finish against the Lancashire Lightning in their season opener, but a comprehensive victory over Derbyshire has left Mark Cosgrove and co. in a position upon which they can build, with back-to-back games against Durham tonight and the winless Worcestershire Rapids on Friday evening, as they look to gain their first knockout berth since winning the competition – then the Friends Life T20 – back in 2011.
But Leicestershire won’t be looking too far ahead with 14 games in the group stage.
Durham, meanwhile, sit pretty on the top of the North Division with two wins to their name, one of three teams in the competition who still boast a 100% record. Captain Mark Stoneman, part of a Durham top-three who have each scored a 50 so far, reckons there is still “room for improvement” as they prepare for tonight’s clash and their top of the table meeting with Yorkshire tomorrow.
Despite gaining silverware in the One-Day Cup, the Jets had a disappointing 2014 season in the Blast, finishing sixth in the North Group, with two defeats to the Foxes partially to thank for missing out on the last eight stage – chasing down 118 and 178 in narrow victories. Matthew Boyce starred in this game’s corresponding clash with 46 in a low-scorer at Grace Road.
In Niall O’Brien, Leicestershire boast talent and experience in abundance behind the stumps, with the Irish international claiming three catches in the Foxes’ victory over the Falcons last time out. O’Brien is far from a one-trick pony, however, as emphasised with his match-winning, unbeaten, 47 in the same game – coming from just 27 balls as Leicestershire regained their winning feeling.
Fresh from his seven for 60 in the Championship last week, John Hastings will be looking to continue his decent T20 form with both bat and ball for the Jets. Hastings has only mustered scores of 3 and 1 with the bat so far, but the performances of the top three have meant they’ve gone unpunished, but it’s something the Australian will need to address. He has impressed with the ball, however, going for an economy rate of just 5.50 from his six overs in the competition to date.
With two games in two days, Leicestershire have opted for a 14-man squad for the double-header, with James Sykes, Neil Pinner and Charlie Shreck slotting alongside the XI who featured against Derbyshire. Ben Raine looks set to play against his old county.
Leicestershire squad: Mark Cosgrove (captain), Ned Eckersley, Grant Elliott, Clint McKay, Jigar Naik, Kevin O’Brien, Niall O’Brien (wicketkeeper), Neil Pinner, Ben Raine, Charlie Shreck, James Sykes, Rob Taylor, Tom Wells
Similarly, Durham have also named a larger squad for this game, as well as Yorkshire’s visit to the Emirates ICG on Friday evening. Mark Wood and Ben Stokes are unavailable due to England duty, while Barry McCarthy is rewarded for some impressive performances in the Second XI with a place in the 16.
Durham squad: Mark Stoneman (captain), Usman Arshad, Scott Borthwick, Graham Clark, Paul Collingwood, Paul Coughlin, John Hastings, Keaton Jennings, Calum MacLeod, Barry McCarthy, Gordon Muchall, Phil Mustard (wicketkeeper), Ryan Pringle, Graham Onions, Michael Richardson, Chris Rushworth
Date: 28th May 2015
Time: 17:30 (live on Sky Sports)
Ground: Grace Road, Leicester
Umpires: Jeremy Lloyds & Tim Robinson (Martin Bodenham as Third Umpire)
Odds (via SkyBet): Leicestershire 5/4, Durham 8/13