With the tower, deckchairs and sticks of rock, cricket is perhaps not the first thing that springs to mind when you think of Blackpool but, when Lancashire and Middlesex square off at Stanley Park on Wednesday, they will be seeking to prove that they do like to be beside the seaside.
Both will be hopeful that there will be some sun to accompany the sea and sand as the two sides, among many others, have been hampered by the weather in the early stages of the competition. Middlesex saw their only scheduled fixture so far rained off against Warwickshire at Lord’s without a ball being bowled while rain and Ravi Bopara have stood in the way of Lancashire. Their clash with Sussex at Horsham never got started, while a century from the England all-rounder saw them lose their second match to Essex.
It’s probably fair to say that the One Day Cup isn’t particularly high on Lancashire’s list of priorities. Despite a healthy lead at the top of Division Two, County Championship promotion remains their main focus while their progression to the T20 quarter-finals means the Blast will be their white-ball priority.
Middlesex endured a dismal T20 Blast campaign, finishing bottom of their group and offering very little for their fans to get excited about. Therefore they will want to improve on those performances in 50-over cricket and are free to have a real tilt at the competition with their County Championship season going nicely.
Both sides will be desperate to fare better in this year’s competition than they did last year, with Lancashire winning just twice and Middlesex just three times.
On paper, Middlesex are the stronger outfit, lead by England limited-overs skipper Eoin Morgan and boasting international experience in James Franklin, Mitchell McClenaghan and the newly-signed Junaid Khan.
Karl Brown has made himself into a crucial batsman for Lancashire this season and has begun to show some dynamic and consistent form, especially in the T20 Blast. He notched half-centuries in three of his last four T20 innings and boasts a strike rate in the competition of 128.97. He has also taken up his place in the Championship side, opening the batting alongside Paul Horton and has scored six 50’s and averaged and impressive 45.36. It is his ability to strike the ball cleanly that Lancashire will look for against Middlesex and his performances at number three are pivotal for their one-day fortunes.
Former Lancashire man Junaid Khan has joined Middlesex as an overseas player just in time to face his old county. Renowned for his superb death bowling and toe-crushing Yorkers, Khan will be a valuable addition to the Middlesex squad. The Pakistan international was a big success during his time at Old Trafford and Lancashire will be wary of the threat he possesses when they face him on Wednesday.
Lancashire have tended to blood some of their younger players across different formats this season and it will be no surprise to see something similar here. Gavin Griffiths played in the Essex game, while the likes of George Edwards, Toby Lester and Liam Livingstone have all featured this year. They may also choose to add Arron Lilley to the side as a double-spin option alongside Stephen Parry, depending on the conditions at Blackpool.
Lancashire squad: TBC
Middlesex are hopeful that Paul Stirling will pass a late fitness test to enable him to play and have named the Ireland international in their 15-man squad. Joe Burns has left Middlesex to join up with the Australia A squad and his spot as the overseas player has been filled by Pakistan bowler Junaid Khan. John Simpson was their top scorer in the T20 Blast competition and Middlesex are hopeful he can repeat that form in the longer format.
Middlesex squad: Eoin Morgan (captain), Nick Compton, Neil Dexter, James Franklin, Nick Gubbins, James Harris, Junaid Khan, Dawid Malan, Ravi Patel, Ollie Rayner, Sam Robson, Toby Roland-Jones, Gurjit Sandhu, John Simpson (wicketkeeper), Paul Stirling
Weather and conditions
It’s rained almost non-stop in Blackpool since Sunday but the forecast is for a brighter day on Wednesday with sunshine mixed with the odd shower.
Date: 29th July 2015
Ground: Stanley Park, Blackpool
Umpires: Mark Benson & Jeremy Lloyds
Odds: Lancashire 4/5, Middlesex Evens