Lancashire ought to be cruising their way into the Vitality Blast quarter-finals.
They have played good cricket throughout the competition, getting themselves into winning positions even after the loss of Liam Livingstone to injury and Keaton Jennings to the Test side.
And yet back-to-back Old Trafford defeats inside the last week to Leicestershire and Durham have left them still needing wins to secure their last eight place.
Both of those matches should have been routine wins for Glen Chapple’s side. Leicestershire were well behind the rate required, with five wickets down, when Mohammad Nabi unleashed his magnificent 86 from 32 balls.
And the Lightning were easing to their chase three nights ago against Durham, requiring 63 from 60 balls and even just six from the final six balls. Yet, inexplicably, they scored just one from that final over, losing three wickets as Liam Trevaskis was cast as hero for the Jets.
It therefore made Lancashire’s Roses victory over Yorkshire at Headingley all the more crucial. Their comfortable win over their biggest rivals was underpinned by a great rally after being battered around for the first 12 overs, before clawing Yorkshire back and bludgeoning their way to a routine chase.
All that leaves Lancashire heading into Friday nights home clash with Birmingham Bears third in the table, in a healthy position to reach the knockout phase but still with work to do.
Birmingham have struggled to match their T20 form of recent seasons. Last seasons runners-up have stuttered their way up to fifth in the table but head to Old Trafford with confidence after a resounding win over Notts Outlaws at Edgbaston in a repeat of the 2017 final.
Ian Bell continued his fine form and is looking like the man who could lead the Bears into the last eight once again. To do that, they will likely need to beat Lancashire twice as the two sides meet next week at Edgbaston as well.
Victory for Birmingham at Old Trafford would take them level on points with the Lightning and intensify the scrap for the top four in the North Group.
Lancashire will hope improve their form at Old Trafford. They’ve won just four out of 15 matches at HQ in all competitions and, unless they can secure a home quarter-final, this will be their last match at their home ground this season.
Karl Brown has been a man on the periphery of Lancashire’s first team for a few seasons now, delivering strong displays for the second XI but being limited to appearances in the T20 side only. At the start of the competition, he wasn’t even featuring in this format, but Livingstone’s injury has given Brown an opportunity and he’s taken it. The right-hander has worked well with opening partner Alex Davies to get Lancashire off to good starts in the powerplay and his 34-ball 51 was the crucial innings in helping the Lightning complete the Roses T20 double at Headingley.
Ian Bell has proved his enduring class during this Blast campaign. Written off in many sections of the cricketing public, Bell has fought back and stands as top scorer in the whole competition. Admittedly he’s had four more innings than Surrey’s Aaron Finch who is miles clear in the averages, but Bell has been pivotal to the Bears. He ought to enjoy the batting surface at Old Trafford, so could cash in once again on Friday night.
Lancashire Squad: TBA
Birmingham Squad: TBA
Weather and Conditions
Some rain early in the day should clear to leave a bright evening. Old Trafford can grip for the spinners – and Lancashire have a plethora of those – but is also a good batting track.
Date: August 10th 2018
Ground: Emirates Old Trafford
Odds (SkyBet): Lancashire 4/5, Birmingham 1/1