Yorkshire supporters gathering at Headingley on Friday night will be pinning their hopes on the NatWest T20 Blast for any chance of silverware this season. They lie just outside the qualification spaces for the knockouts, did not bring home the One-Day Cup, and are well off the top of the division one table.
The word ‘relegation’ has been mentioned, although thus far only in the negative; however, you can’t spell ‘nobody’s talking about relegation yet’ without ‘relegation’.
Lancashire may yet chase down Essex in the Championship (although it does look unlikely), but they are in a virtually identical position to their rivals in the Blast. Same points, same results.
They tied at Old Trafford. Yorkshire are ahead only on net run rate. At this stage of the competition, win and you are nipping at the heels of the top four. Lose, and you are almost certainly out of the shortest format for another season.
Neither of these sides has produced dominant cricket consistently for the past couple of years. They are historical superpowers, but it is for the good of the game that all competitions, especially the marquee events, have unpredictable results.
Importantly this year, the Roses clash follows a Kia Super League clash between the Yorkshire Diamonds and the Lancashire Thunder teams. As one Twenty20 competition nears its end, another begins. Unlike in the men’s game, all the World Cup-winning England stars have been made available for the Super League and will be on show in the afternoon.
It is not just a double dosage of transpennine bragging rights at stake on Friday, but these two encounters will have a significant impact on the 2017 fortunes of four popular and fiercely supported sides.
In the absence of the White Rose’s Test stars, it falls to David Willey to bring international class to the home side at Headingley. He has been in stonking form with the bat, relishing the freedom of his top-order hitting role in memorable fashion. He offers firepower with the ball as well, but Yorkshire have realised (and perhaps England should take note) that Willey the batsman is a T20 match winner in the top three.
Jos Buttler is only playing at Headingley because the brilliance and consistency of Yorkshire’s Jonny Bairstow is keeping the Somerset-born keeper out of the Test side. He may not be part of the Test team, but he feels and looks like an England player in virtually everything he does. He is one of the world’s best T20 batsmen and has happy memories of playing a starring role in Red Rose victories in enemy territory. The words ‘Key Man’ could have been invented for Jos Buttler.
Gary Ballance is nearing full fitness after a broken thumb kept him out of the last two South Africa Tests, and Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root are resting ahead of the West Indies series.
Yorkshire squad: Tim Bresnan (c), Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), Karl Carver, Matthew Fisher, Tom Kohler-Cadmore, Jack Leaning, Adam Lyth, Shaun Marsh, Steven Patterson, Liam Plunkett, Azeem Rafiq, Adil Rashid, David Willey
Lancashire squad: Steven Croft (C), Tom Bailey, Jos Buttler (wk), Karl Brown, Jordan Clark, Kyle Jarvis, Rob Jones, Junaid Khan, Arron Lilley, Liam Livingstone, Ryan McLaren, Matthew Parkinson, Stephen Parry, Dane Vilas
Weather and conditions
Warm but some chance of showers throughout the afternoon/evening.
Date: 11th August 2017
Odds (SkyBet): Yorkshire 4/5, Lancashire Evens