Vitality Blast Finals Day Preview: Lancashire

Vitality Blast Finals Day Preview: Lancashire

Matt Parkinson © Luke Adams

So here it is, the one bright beacon of hope in an otherwise dismal season for Lancashire.

In many ways it’s win or bust for the Red Rose’s season. Another poor Royal London One-Day Cup campaign has been coupled by a miserable time in the County Championship where batting inadequacies have left them facing relegation – a fate all-but confirmed by a chastening loss against bitter rivals Yorkshire this week.

But cutting through all that gloom since early summer has been the Vitality Blast. Lancashire boast one of the best records in T20 anywhere in the world but have won this competition just once, back in 2015. Right from the start, this team bore many of the hallmarks of three years ago.

There’s been a fearless nature about the Lightning’s displays, characterised by the exhilarating abandon of new skipper Liam Livingstone, who has injected a freedom into the side which has allowed the likes of Alex Davies, Arron Lilley and Jordan Clark to flourish with the bat.

And Lancashire’s 2015 win was underpinned by a battery of quality spin bowling. They’ve returned to that formula once again after two successive group-stage eliminations. Many have mocked just how many spinners Lancashire have ended up with this season, but it’s a crucial weapon.

Credit must go to the under-fire coaching staff. Plenty, including this writer, were sceptical about the continued selection of bowler Lilley to bat at three, but he’s been a valuable asset in many of Lancashire’s wins, given the freedom to go out and swing hard from ball one. He was a large part of the reason Lancashire won that extraordinary shortened Roses clash at Old Trafford and competed the double over Yorkshire at Headingley.

Throw in the return of 2015 winner James Faulkner and it’s clear to see why many Lightning fans believe it can be their year again. They have the experience and the quality to take the title, but the pressure is very much on given the nature of the rest of their season.

Edgbaston is the last light still burning this season. Worcestershire will be the first to attempt to extinguish it in the first semi-final on Saturday.

Only holding that trophy aloft at the end of the showpiece event will salvage the 2018 campaign.

Player of the tournament

For all the firepower delivered by Livingstone prior to his injury, Alex Davies was the star in getting Lancashire to Edgbaston. His 525 runs have come at an impressive strike rate of 130.27 and he has notched six half-centuries in the competition – breaking the Lancashire record held by Jos Buttler and Steven Croft.

When Davies is in full flow he’s a joy to watch. Most of his outings have come at the top of the order, but with Buttler’s availability for Finals Day, Davies is likely to drop down to four or five. Lancashire’s batting could have real strength in depth.

An honourable mention in this category must go to Matt Parkinson. The young leg-spinner has claimed 23 wickets with an economy of just 7.44. There’s not many more talented white-ball bowlers out there.

Top Run-scorer: Alex Davies – 525 runs

Most Wickets: Matt Parkinson – 23 wickets

Road to Finals Day

Having finished third in the North Group, Lancashire faced a trip to Kent in a repeat of the quarter-finals from 2015. They kept Kent to a low total which they chased with intelligence to make Finals Day.

View from the stands

Lancashire fan Mikey Partington: “If we play the brand of cricket that we have been known for this season, there’s no reason why we can’t light up Finals Day and turn Edgbaston into Redbaston once again!”

Squad

Liam Livingstone (c), Jos Buttler, Karl Brown, Jordan Clark, Steven Croft, Alex Davies, James Faulkner, Keaton Jennings, Zahir Khan, Danny Lamb, Toby Lester, Arron Lilley, Saqib Mahmood, Graham Onions, Matt Parkinson, Dane Vilas, Mark Watt

Date: Saturday 15th September
Time: 11am
Ground: Edgbaston
Tournament Odds (SkyBet) : 5/2

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