A sell-out crowd is expected at Old Trafford on Friday night for the most fiercely contested match in the North Group and arguably the biggest clash in English domestic cricket, between the Red Rose of Lancashire and the White Rose of Yorkshire.
As well as a determination to take the bragging rights over their old rivals, both sides could do with a win to boost their chances of making the quarter-finals. Three defeats in their last four matches have left Lancashire fifth in the table, just a point off the top four but level on points with the two sides below them and just a point clear of Yorkshire in eighth.
The Lightning are looking to do the double over Yorkshire after a thrilling clash at Headingley earlier in the season. With the England boys in action for their counties, a capacity crowd witnessed Joe Root star for the Vikings before Jos Buttler pulled the game Lancashire’s way with a superb 35-ball 71 to clinch a dramatic last-ball win.
The England internationals are not in action this time around, and Yorkshire in particular are weakened by crucial members of their squad, including Adil Rashid, being named as part of the Ashes party for the first Test next week. In a strange twist, the Australians on show could be the key protagonists this time around. Yorkshire boast the world-renowned and oft-hyped firepower of Aaron Finch and Glenn Maxwell while Lancashire are heavily reliant on the all-round skills of James Faulkner.
Recent matches at Old Trafford have followed a consistent pattern. With pace on the ball in the powerplay, runs are scored, but the pitch has been slow and grips for the slower bowlers. When combined with the boundary ropes being pushed as far out as possible, runs have been hard to come by. While it has resulted in close contests, it has not been conducive to thrilling cricket and so the thousands of expectant fans who pour into Old Trafford on Friday will be hoping for a pitch that allows for a few more big hits.
Lancashire need to be more dynamic with the bat and the responsibility for setting that tone falls on Paul Horton, who is 34 runs short of a thousand T20 runs for Lancashire. Having been suspended for the first two matches of the season, the experienced opening batsman has averaged just 15.00 this season, but more worryingly for the Lightning those runs have come at a strike rate of 78.94. With a fast start at the heart of every team’s plans, that is simply not going to cut it by modern T20 standards. You would suspect that Horton must find a way to start more quickly if he wants to retain his spot in this side.
In this fixture last year, Aaron Finch launched a Jordan Clark delivery onto The Point. For those unfamiliar with Old Trafford, that’s an almighty whack by anyone’s standards and the hard-hitting Australian will be hoping he can produce similar strikes this time around. His innings of 88 proved to be a match-winning knock last year and, when he fires, Finch is a man to be feared. This season, however, he has struggled. In his four matches he has scored just 43 runs, despite a high score of 30, so the Yorkshire fans will want to see more from their big-name opener.
Lancashire will line up in much the same way as they have throughout this season, with the main decisions to be made concerning the bowling unit. George Edwards was a key component early in the season but hasn’t featured in recent weeks and misses out again. Jos Buttler is on England duty so the man with the gloves will once again be Alex Davies, who has been run out three times in the T20 Blast this season – more than anyone else.
Yorkshire will have to do without Joe Root, Gary Ballance and potential England debutant Adil Rashid. The leg-spinner Rashid will be a particular loss and Jason Gillespie has added James Middlebrook and Kyle Carver to his squad as spin options. One man who was in contention for an England call-up, Jonny Bairstow, will feature for the Vikings as a key man with both bat and gloves.
Lancashire Lightning squad: Steven Croft (c), Tom Bailey, Karl Brown, Jordan Clark, Alex Davies (wk), James Faulkner, Paul Horton, Kyle Jarvis, Arron Lilley, Liam Livingstone, Saqib Mahmood, Stephen Parry, Ashwell Prince.
Yorkshire Squad: Andrew Gale (c), Jonny Bairstow (wk), Karl Carver, Ben Coad, Aaron Finch, Matthew Fisher, Ryan Gibson, Andrew Hodd, Jack Leaning, Glenn Maxwell, James Middlebrook, Steve Patterson, Richard Pyrah, Will Rhodes
Weather and conditions
While there is some light rain forecast, the match should be completed before the showers arrive. As for the pitch, expect a surface that will aid Lancashire’s battery of spinners and bowlers who take pace off the ball.
Date: 3rd July 2015
Ground: Emirates Old Trafford
Umpires: Nigel Cowley & Steve Gale. TV Umpire – Russell Evans
Odds (SkyBet): Lancashire 1/1, Yorkshire 4/5