Thursday evening sees a repeat of last year’s T20 Blast final as Lancashire Lightning host Northamptonshire Steelbacks at Old Trafford, but both sides have their issues as they meet for the second time in eight days.
Lancashire have had a stuttering start to their title defence, winning two of their five games, the last of which came with a D/L win against Leicestershire, whilst their only other win so far came against Yorkshire in the Roses clash.
Ashley’s Giles men will be hoping that victory against the Foxes can kick start their campaign, with two games in the upcoming days, with a trip to Edgbaston on Sunday. Two wins will see the Lightning shoot up the North group, especially whilst they can boost the services of Jos Buttler before he links up with the England squad.
Northants meanwhile sit second in the group having won their opening three games before suffering a first defeat at Worcestershire last Friday, however the Steelbacks travel to Manchester with a heavily-depleted squad.
Richard Levi and Rory Kleinveldt are both missing with injuries, with Olly Stone out for the season, and they were then dealt a further blow with Seekkuge Prasanna’s call up to the Sri Lankan ODI squad.
Any side would miss the likes of Levi, Kleinveldt and Prasanna, all experienced t20 cricketers, but their absence is felt harder by Northants, who’s already threadbare squad is done to the bare bones, a batting line-up lacking it’s usual depth with an inexperienced bowling attack.
With Durham visiting Wantage Road on Friday night, it could be a painful week for Northants’ quarter-final hopes, but with three wins already in the bank they will hope they can ride out a dip and come back strong in the later stages of the group fixtures.
Liam Livingstone caught the national attention with his half century in the Roses T20 clash, and the young batsman is growing his reputation as a powerful striker in the shortest format, and could well be pressing for an England Lions spot this summer.
Josh Cobb has looked in good form in recent weeks, but has been guilty of making a nice-looking 20 and then getting out, however you feel a big score is around the corner for the former Leicestershire man, and without their usual depth, top-order runs will be vital for Northants, whilst is Prasanna’s absence, Cobb will take more of a bowling role.
Lancashire have named a 15-man squad for the clash in the north, with 19-year-old Matthew Parkinson, who took 5-17 in a second XI T20 match a fortnight ago, potentially getting the nod for a senior debut.
Lancashire squad: Steven Croft (captain), Karl Brown, Nathan Buck, Jos Buttler (wicket-keeper), Jordan Clark, George Edwards, Martin Guptill, Arron Lilley, Liam Livingstone, Saqib Mahmood, Matthew Parkinson, Stephen Parry, Alviro Petersen, Luke Procter, Neil Wagner
Northants remain without Richard Levi and Rory Kleineldt, whilst Seekkuge Prasanna has now joined up with the Sri Lankan squad. Adam Rossington and Rob Keogh are also doubts with finger injuries, but seamer Moin Ashraf could make his debut for the club.
Northants squad: Alex Wakely (captain), Moin Ashraf, Mohammad Azharullah, Josh Cobb, Steven Crook, Ben Duckett, Richard Gleeson, Rob Keogh, Rob Newton, Adam Rossington (wicket-keeper), Ben Sanderson, Alex Wakely, Graeme White, Saif Zaib
Weather and conditions
Thursday evening’s forecast does not look promising for Manchester with thunderstorms forecast throughout the afternoon and night, leaving a high chance that the game will be interrupted, with a different type of lightning taking centre stage.
Date: 16th June 2016
Venue: Emirates Old Trafford
Umpires: Nigel Cowley, Alex Wharf
Odds: Lancashire 8/13, Northants 5/4