As the roses of Yorkshire and Lancashire are wilting towards the bottom half of the County Championship table, the Vitality Blast is the one remaining chance both of these proud counties have of securing silverware in this season. With the two sides currently standing third and fourth respectively in the table, there is far more than bragging rights at stake. Defeat is not an option either of these sides can countenance.
Lancashire will arrive at Emerald Headingley nursing a painful wound from their previous match against the Durham Jets. Needing six to win off the final over, they capitulated to lose by four runs in a remarkable finish that had members of the club’s Facebook fan group Googling synonyms for ‘useless’.
Yorkshire come into the contest with their confidence high after two consecutive wins against Midlands opponents: a Kane Williamson half-century saw them dispatch Northamptonshire, and his 77 proved too much for the Leicestershire Foxes last week.
The Roses match holds strategic importance for both sides in the context of this season and this tournament. However, it also has a wider significance for English cricket. With the hydra of ‘The Hundred’ raising its ugly head over this season’s Blast, it is vital that the marquee events of the existing English season show that cricket, as we know it, is still worth the Herculean effort it will take to save it.
Kane Williamson is on a roll in this tournament and, after bashing out two half-centuries in important wins, the pressure will be on for the star New Zealander to deliver once more. With the spotlight on Joe Root and Virat Kohli, and Steve Smith serving his purgatorial sentence in the Caribbean Premier League, Williamson could restate his place among the game’s elite with a fine knock tonight.
Zahir Khan was a somewhat controversial overseas signing for Lancashire, considering he has never made a full international appearance for his native Afghanistan. Yet he quelled the controversy with a dazzling display of left-arm wrist spin, that is rarely seen on these shores, to return impressive figures of 2-19 on his ninth Twenty20 match at Emirates Old Trafford. Even Yorkshire’s senior players won’t have faced a great deal of left-arm wrist spin before, so his four overs could be a challenge for the home side.
Yorkshire squad: Steven Patterson (c), Gary Ballance, Tim Bresnan, Harry Brook, Jack Brooks, Matthew Fisher, Tom Kohler-Cadmore, Jack Leaning, Adam Lyth, Azeem Rafiq, Jonny Tattersall (WK), Jordan Thompson, Kane Williamson, David Willey
Lancashire squad: Dane Vilas (c), Josh Bohannon, Karl Brown, Jordan Clark, Steven Croft, Alex Davies, James Faulkner, Zahir Khan, Danny Lamb, Toby Lester, Arron Lilley, Graham Onions, Matt Parkinson, Mark Watt
Weather and conditions
Showers on Friday but otherwise dry and fine with mild temperatures. Last season, Worcestershire piled on 456-6 before reducing their hosts to 42-4, then rain came to the rescue. Should be dry and warmish throughout. Bring a jumper but leave the umbrella at home.
Date: 9th August 2018
Odds (SkyBet): Yorkshire 4/5, Lancashire Evens