At the midway stage of the T20 Blast, things couldn’t be much tighter in the North Group.
Lancashire sit second in the standings as they prepare to welcome seventh-placed Nottinghamshire to Old Trafford – but the Lightning are just two points ahead of their opponents having played a game more.
The fact that just two points separates second from seventh highlights the competitive nature of the Blast, and also helps to place extra pressure on every team to pick up critical wins to ensure their progression to the knockout stage.
Lancashire’s impressive start to the competition was curtailed somewhat by a defeat at Derbyshire on Tuesday night, undone in part by their former player Luis Reece who struck a career-best 97 from 55 balls to held the Falcons to an unassailable 211.
It’s been an up-and-down Blast for the Outlaws so far, winning three and losing three of their six matches to date. They also suffered defeat in midweek, becoming the first victims of Worcestershire in this year’s competition in a high-scoring contest at Trent Bridge.
All of this to-ing and fro-ing leaves this contest at Old Trafford evenly poised. Both sides are in reasonable form with the bat, with their star men also going nicely.
Lancashire’s Liam Livingstone followed up a career-best knock, in the victory over Durham on Sunday, with an 18-ball 44 featuring five sixes in that defeat to Derbyshire. And Notts’ big-hitting opener Alex Hales also demonstrated his not-inconsiderable power, with 63 from 27 balls including 14 boundaries against Worcestershire.
It’s fancy dress night at Old Trafford on Friday, too, and there will be a Mariachi Ole band performing.
If these sides’ big-hitters get firing, there could be a few sombreros diving for cover at Old Trafford.
Matthew Parkinson only made his white-ball debut for Lancashire against Derbyshire less than two weeks ago, but his 3-17 on that debut has kept the leg-spinner in the side and, despite struggling against Derbyshire second time around, the 20-year-old continues to impress. His 2-23 helped the Lightning to victory over Durham, and Parkinson offers the valuable asset of leg-spin in limited-overs cricket.
Riki Wessels is the only man to strike a century for Nottinghamshire in the Blast so far this season, smashing his way to 110 against Derbyshire last week. The destructive opener boasts a mighty strike rate of 133.68 in the Blast so far this season, and is charged with getting the Outlaws off to a fast start, allowing Alex Hales to get his eye in at the other end.
Jordan Clark misses the game through illness, while Kyle Jarvis, Danny Lamb and Tom Bailey are waiting in the wings if Lancashire opt for the extra seamer.
Lancashire Squad: Steven Croft (c), Tom Bailey, Jos Buttler (wk), Karl Brown, Kyle Jarvis, Rob Jones, Junaid Khan, Danny Lamb, Arron Lilley, Liam Livingstone, Ryan McLaren, Matthew Parkinson, Stephen Parry, Dane Vilas
Samit Patel provides the all-rounder option for the Outlaws while New Zealander Ish Sodhi looks to continue his impressive form so far.
Nottinghamshire Squad: Dan Christian (c), Jake Ball, Harry Gurney, Alex Hales, Brett Hutton, Tom Moores (wk), Steven Mullaney, Samit Patel, Billy Root, Ish Sodhi, Brendan Taylor, Riki Wessels, Luke Wood
Weather and Conditions
This one, like Lancashire’s game against Worcestershire at New Road last week, might do well to even get started. Heavy rain is forecast for Friday evening. If play happens, it’s generally a good batting surface that offers something for pace off the ball.
Date: July 28th 2017
Ground: Emirates Old Trafford
Umpires: Jeff Evans & Nigel Llong
Odds (SkyBet): Lancashire 11/10, Nottinghamshire 8/11