Last season’s beaten finalists Durham begin their quest to go one better by hosting the 2015 champions Lancashire at the Riverside.
Their T20 campaign was the bright spark in an otherwise dismal season for the Chester-le-Street team. Enforced relegation from Division One of the County Championship, due to financial penalties, and a group-stage elimination from the Royal London One Day Cup were offset by their challenge for the T20 crown.
Ultimately the Jets fell just short, losing the final against Northants at Edgbaston. Opener Mark Stoneman and star batsman Scott Borthwick have both departed for Surrey from that team, while Keaton Jennings is now missing due to England commitments. That will make a similar challenge much more difficult this time around.
Lancashire disappointed in their title defence last season. Their 2015 success, the first T20 crown for the club, was followed up by a group stage elimination – missing out on qualification on the final day.
The Lightning were ambitious in their T20 recruitment, bringing left-arm seamer Junaid Khan back to the club. They also signed Australian all-rounder James Faulker, who played in their 2015 title-winning squad, before adding Sri Lankan legend Mahela Jayawardene.
Unfortunately for Glen Chapple’s side, Faulkner was prevented from playing by Cricket Australia due to injury while Jayawardene pulled out for personal reasons. The club continue to assess any further possible additions.
Despite those disappointments, the squad on paper looks capable of competing. Jos Buttler is set to be available for the whole competition, while Liam Livingstone has proven himself to be an exhilarating talent against the white ball. Throw in the experience of Steven Croft, Dane Vilas and Stephen Parry and Lancashire will hope fare better than last season.
Paul Coughlin has been given the responsibility of captaining the side for the T20 campaign. The seamer impressed on their way to the final last season picking up 17 wickets and has taken 25 Championship wickets so far this season. The 24-year-old has been rewarded with the captaincy but will surely lean on 41-year-old Paul Collingwood for advice.
Steven Croft is set to continue his remarkable record for the Lightning. The skipper has played in an amazing 131 consecutive T20 matches and is set to extend that run when he leads his side out against the Jets. Only Suresh Raina and Virat Kohli have played more consecutive matches for one team. The all-rounder is a crucial part of the side with bat and ball as well as being one of the outstanding fielders in county cricket.
Durham Jets: Paul Coughlin (c), Usman Arshad, Jack Burnham, Paul Collingwood, Graham Clark, Adam Hickey, Barry McCarthy, Stuart Poynter (wk), Ryan Pringle, Michael Richardson, Chris Rushworth, Cameron Steel, Liam Trevaskis, James Weighell
Lancashire Lightning: Steven Croft (C), Tom Bailey, Jos Buttler (wk), Karl Brown, Jordan Clark, Kyle Jarvis, Rob Jones, Arron Lilley, Liam Livingstone, Ryan McLaren, Saqib Mahmood, Matthew Parkinson, Stephen Parry, Dane Vilas
Weather and Conditions
It looks fine and dry for the hours of play at Chester-le-Street. Conditions at the ground are often dictated by the skies so a lack of cloud will help the batsmen but the ball can still nip around for the seamers in Durham.
Date: July 7th 2016
Ground: Emirates Riverside, Durham
Umpires: Tim Robinson & Russell Warren
Odds (SkyBet): Durham 11/10, Lancashire 8/11