Northamptonshire will be looking to continue their recent revival in the Natwest t20 Blast as they host the inconsistent Lancashire at Wantage Road on Friday night.
Northants, the 2013 champions, lost their opening three games, but five points out of six last week, including a dominant victory against Yorkshire last time out, has seen them climb to within two points of the fourth qualification spot, with a game in hand on Leicestershire .
Lancashire, meanwhile, have had a year of contrasting fortunes so far, with Thursday night’s defeat at home to Worcestershire leaving them having won three and lost three, and with Northants having also lost three, both teams will know they can ill-afford a fourth defeat before the halfway stage.
Before yesterday’s defeat Lancashire would have hoped they had turned a corner after a thrilling chase of 186 in the Roses clash before posting 201 to beat Derby last Friday, having lost their previous two games.
Lancashire have won four of the five previous t20 meetings between the two sides, but have not visited Northampton in the shortest form since 2011, where they successfully defended 110 in a low scoring contest.
A similar game seems unlikely tonight as runs look likely to flow at Wantage Road with Northants’ powerful line-up starting to fire, even allowing for the departure of Shahid Afridi.
Ben Duckett, not included in the side for the opening two games, was surprisingly moved up to number three at Leicester last week in the absence of David Willey from the Steelbacks’ top order, but the 20-year-old has responded with unbeaten scores of 39 and 31, both in games truncated by the weather.
The diminutive batsman has also been keen on the flicks and scoops, but has shown the ability to hit cleanly down the ground and will hope for the chance to impress in a full 20 over innings.
With Lancashire’s powerful lower order, the visitors will be hoping Ashwell Prince can help lay a perfect platform as he looks to cash in against Northants once again. The South African has scored 257* and 153 in his last two innings against Northants in the Championship, and has one half-century to his name so far in the t20 Blast, 78 against Durham.
Shahid Afridi has finished his stint at Wantage Road to go to the CPL, but Northants will welcome back wicketkeeper-batsman Adam Rossington into the squad following injury. Rossington is likely to replace Afridi in the line-up, with Graeme White, who hasn’t bowled in four appearance so far, to take up his allocation of overs.
Captain Alex Wakely missed the trip to Yorkshire last Sunday with the birth of his child imminent, but should return at home, with Rob Newton likely to make way.
After Thursday night’s late drama, Ashley Giles is waiting until Friday morning to name his squad for the trip to Wantage Road.
Northants Steelbacks squad: Alex Wakely (c), Muhammed Azharullah, Josh Cobb, Steven Crook, Ben Duckett, Rob Keogh, Rory Kleinveldt, Richard Levi, Rob Newton, Adam Rossington, Olly Stone, Graeme White
Lancashire Lightning squad: tba
Weather and conditions
A fine, if slightly cloudy evening is expected in Northampton on Friday night, but it should remain dry with temperatures in the high teens.
The last two t20 matches at Wantage Road saw Northants share over 400 runs with Worcestershire before chasing 165 with ease against Derbyshire, and with tonight likely to be played on the same pitch, expect more high scoring.
Date: Friday June 18th
Ground: Wantage Road, Northampton.
Umpires: Steve Garratt, Neil Mallender.
Odds (via SkyBet): Northants: 4/5, Essex 10/11