Back to the red ball stuff this week as we work our way this quixotic 2023 fixture list as we make our way to the seaside and the spiritual home of Strictly Come Dancing, Blackpool. The hosts, Lancashire, lost their Blast Quarter Final to Surrey, but in the red ball format are firmly ensconced in mid table, but feeling confident after crushing leaders Surrey by 123 runs at the Kia Oval to throw the Division One title race slightly wider open. Meanwhile Essex fresh off making it to finals day after beating Birmingham in the Blast Quarter Final, are also riding high in 2nd place in Division One after beating Birmingham’s red ball alter ego, Warwickshire by 9 wickets in their last red ball outing a couple of weeks ago.
Earlier in the season, these two sides saw played out a draw at Chelmsford, with Essex comfortably seeing out the last 58 overs in a rain affected game which had seen 103 overs lost to inclement weather.
The hosts are likely to be unchanged following their surprise victory over leaders Surrey. This game should be New Zealand batter Daryl Mitchell’s last red ball game of his spell as their overseas player, he takes his place in a powerful looking middle order alongside England batter Phil Salt who has been in good red ball form since returning to the side and scored vital runs at the Oval. The new ball pair of Tom Bailey and Will Williams tore through a talented Surrey line up at the Oval in the second innings to blow them away for 84, sharing 9 wickets between them, and 14 for the match. They are an underrated and dangerous pairing, alongside talented local youngsters such as Jack Blatherwick and George Balderson.
Essex will welcome overseas signing Doug Bracewell back into the squad to resume his red ball duties, and with Adam Rossington now fully recovered from his finger injury this may see him regain his place back in the red ball side, despite some steady performances from Will Buttleman with the bat and the gloves. Dan Lawrence may also not be available for this game as his chances of England selection are increasing thanks to the injury issues surrounding the England test side. As a result, Nick Browne may regain his place at the top of the order, with Feroze Khushi slotting into the middle order.
This match is likely to be weather affected but should be a tightly fought contest between two good sides both feeling confident and big wins last time out.
Sam Cook and Jamie Porter are among the best new ball pairings in the country and should be dangerous again here having shared 57 wickets between them so far. But Simon Harmer continues to do Simon Harmer things with 36 red ball wickets so far. If it were not for Brexit, and the removal of Kolpak status he might well have seen himself in the England side around now, and by jove, they could do with him seeing Jack Leach’s and Moeen Ali’s injury issues.
Lancashire have some high-quality players in their side, and experienced New Zealand all-rounder Daryl Mitchell will be a key player for them, alongside England’s Phil Salt who slotted seamlessly back into the red ball game. Will Williams is an effective operator in the county game and has 26 wickets at 20.14 so far, alongside Tom Bailey, the very definition of the unstinting and underrated county workhorse, who has 28 wickets at 20.57.
Essex squad: tbc
Lancashire squad: tbc
Weather and conditions:
The forecast for all four days looks like there may be some rain around, so a draw could be favourite here. But, this game is being played at Blackpool due to the upcoming Ashes test at Old Trafford, an out ground which Lancashire have not used since 2011 when they beat Worcestershire by 98 runs in a game dominated by the seamers, but due to the passage of time since that last visit to Blackpool, the pitch looks to be something of an unknown so a result may not completely out of the question.
Date: 10th – 13th July 2023
Ground: Blackpool Cricket Club, Blackpool
Odds (Sky Bet): Lancashire (67/100); Essex (6/5) (Oddspaedia)