Gloucestershire travel to Old Trafford this week, having failed to hold off the White Rose county in their last outing. Meanwhile, having missed the opening round of matches, Lancashire hit the ground running, with a dominant win against Kent in week two. They have a potent new ball attack with Pakistan’s Hasan Ali, joined this week by Jimmy Anderson and Saqib Mahmood, who have both been made available.
There is no doubt that Anderson will want to show the England selectors what they missed out on in the West Indies. Matt Parkinson also has a point to prove and made a good start to the season, taking seven wickets in Canterbury last week in his first competitive game since he played for the Lions at the end of November.
The batting, especially the middle order, is strong with Dane Vilas and Steven Croft both contributing centuries in the win against Kent, while new acquisition, Phil Salt, fell just short of the mark.
The odds are strongly in favour of Lancashire being right in the mix for honours come September.
Gloucestershire had a hard fought draw against Northamptonshire in round one and then came up short against Yorkshire. The game was forced into the final session thanks to an excellent century from James Bracey. Yorkshire were left to score 211 from a minimum of 60 overs. Despite the early loss of Adam Lyth and a cautious start, Yorkshire were seen home thanks to half centuries from Dawid Malan and Harry Brooks, with 10 overs and six wickets to spare.
Gloucestershire have traditionally relied on a strong team ethic to overcome opposition that appear better equipped. They are bolstered by Australian batsman Marcus Harris, who scored a century on his first outing last week and Pakistani left arm spinner Zafar Gohar, who played in the last match because of an injury to the exciting young quick bowler, Naseem Shah.
James Bracey, having made two Test appearances last summer, has started the season in good form, with centuries in both games played. The only other significant contribution with the bat has been a century from Ryan Higgins, who also took seven wickets in the game against Northamptonshire and continues to handsomely reward the county who picked him up in 2018.
Against Yorkshire, the seam attack lacked penetration and the fact that Shah has now been ruled out for a month with the shoulder injury he sustained in the game against Northamptonshire is a big blow. David Payne also misses out because of illness.
Overall, Lancashire start the game as clear favourites, looking the stronger in both batting and bowling departments.
All eyes will be on the returning Jimmy Anderson. Clearly unhappy at his treatment this winter, the 39-year-old will be keen to ensure that he has not played his last Test match. Unfortunately for the Gloucestershire batters, he has gone on record that he feels he has a point to prove.
James Bracey has made a strong start to the season with the bat and will be keen to back that up with some tidy glove work. With Ben Foakes somewhat denting his “best gloveman in the country” reputation in the West Indies, Bracey will be looking to push his case with the England selectors. At just 24, he has time on his side.
Lancashire squad: Dane Vilas(c), Hassan Ali, James Anderson, Tom Bailey, George Balderson, Josh Bohannon, Steven Croft, Danny Lamb, Saqib Mahmood, Matt Parkinson, Phil Salt (wk), Luke Wells.
Gloucestershire squad: Graeme van Buuren (c), James Bracey (wk), Chris Dent, Zafar Gohar, Miles Hammond, Marcus Harris, Ryan Higgins, Tom Lace, Ajeet Singh Dale, Josh Shaw, George Scott, Matt Taylor, Jared Warner
Weather and Conditions
The forecast is mostly dry, but an easterly wind and cloudy skies mean there will be a need for sweaters and hand warmers.
Old Trafford has the reputation for good cricket wickets and there is no reason why this one should be any different.
Date: 21st-24th April 2022
Ground: Old Trafford
Odds (SkyBet): Lancashire 4/11; Gloucestershire 2/1