The T20 bandwagon, complete with TV cameras, rolls into Leicester on Wednesday evening with Lancashire Lightning aiming for a fourth successive Vitality Blast victory.
Liam Livingstone’s side produced a terrific bowling performance at Old Trafford last weekend to see off Derbyshire after a slightly iffy batting display. That was in contrast to their two previous efforts – a couple of resounding chases to win away at Derbyshire and at home to Northants.
The 2015 champions have therefore bounced back brilliantly from their opening-night defeat to Worcestershire and currently sit second in the North Group table – two points adrift of the Rapids having played a game fewer.
Much focus has inevitably gone to Friday night’s star-studded Roses clash against Yorkshire at Old Trafford, where the likes of Joe Root and Jos Buttler will return to wow a near-capacity crowd.
But Lancashire first need to give due attention to a Leicestershire side who have proven themselves to be very dangerous in the early stages of the competition.
Two wins and two defeats have them placed in the middle of the pack, but Leicestershire have twice notched over 200 – in a dramatic successful chase at Northants and in last Friday’s walloping of Birmingham Bears at Edgbaston.
That shows their capacity with the bat and anything similar against Lancashire would be very difficult for the Lightning to overcome.
It promises therefore to be an exciting encounter between two sides who ought to have plenty of confidence and who possess the talent in their ranks to deliver a thrilling contest.
Ben Raine’s performances have certainly caught the eye thus far, especially his extraordinary knock of 113 from just 46 balls last Friday at Edgbaston. It was a performance that essentially won the game for Leicestershire and he backed it up by also taking two wickets. Raine provides good balance to the Foxes side and is key to their hopes in this one.
Many would not have heard of Lancashire seamer Toby Lester before this competition but, having made his white-ball debut in the second game at Derbyshire, the left-arm seamer has really impressed. He took four wickets last weekend in the home clash against the Falcons, conceding just 25 runs from his four overs including just five from the final over. His bowling in the powerplay, and now at the death, has proved a valuable weapon for the Lightning.
In fact, 35 of the 61 balls he’s bowled in this competition have been dot balls, that’s 57% – a higher rate than anyone who has bowled more than one over.
It’s an unchanged squad for the Foxes who will have Callum Parkinson in their ranks, coming up against his twin brother Matt who will feature for Lancashire.
Leicestershire Squad: Colin Ackermann (capt), Mohammad Abbas, Zak Chappell, Mark Cosgrove, Cameron Delport, Neil Dexter, Gavin Griffiths, Ned Eckersley, Lewis Hill, Mohammad Nabi, Callum Parkinson, Ben Raine, Rob Sayer, Tom Wells
Lancashire are unlikely to make changes from the side that edged Derbyshire. Their spin bowling options are crucial to their hopes, with James Faulkner, Jordan Clark and Lester all proving economical as seamers.
Lancashire Squad: Liam Livingstone (c), Karl Brown, Jordan Clark, Steven Croft, Alex Davies, James Faulkner, Keaton Jennings, Toby Lester, Arron Lilley, Joe Mennie, Graham Onions, Matt Parkinson, Stephen Parry, Dane Vilas
Weather and Conditions
It’s set to be dry and fine for this clash at a ground where the scores can often be high, with fairly small boundaries and a good surface.
Date: July 18th 2018
Ground: Fischer County Ground, Leicester
Odds (SkyBet): Leicestershire 5/4, Lancashire 8/13