Match Preview: Derbyshire Falcons v Lancashire Lightning
County cricket’s latest T20 campaign is ready for Blast Off – literally.
Derbyshire Falcons v Lancashire Lightning
Vitality Blast, North Group
Saturday May 20, 2023, 2.30pm
That is the name of the ECB’s new innovation to kick off this summer’s Vitality Blast.
It will see four teams descend on Edgbaston, also the venue for Finals Day in mid-July, to play an opening day televised doubleheader aimed at giving the competition some extra oomph.
First up it’s Derbyshire v Lancashire, with the Falcons relinquishing home advantage.
That Lancashire don’t have to give up a home game for this was something Red Rose coach Glen Chapple flagged up as crucial to his side’s chances of Blast success when he spoke about the new innovation at pre-season media day.
Second on, under the Edgbaston lights at 6.30pm, it’s Birmingham Bears who tackle the Yorkshire Vikings.
The Lightning are targeting what could be a record-breaking 10th Finals Day appearance this summer, with Hampshire also having advanced to that stage nine times in their history.
Over and above that, Chapple and co are bidding to win the Blast title for a second time. Our only other triumph was in 2015, though we came oh so close last year before being pipped in a last ball thriller in the final against Hampshire.
Chapple will choose two from three overseas players currently in the squad, with South African batter Dane Vilas and New Zealand all-rounders Colin de Grandhomme and Daryl Mitchell all available.
Derbyshire, under the stewardship of head of cricket Mickey Arthur, had one of their better campaigns last year.
The Falcons have only ever reached Finals Day once, back in 2019, but they went close to doing so again in 2022 by reaching the quarter-finals.
Unfortunately for them, after nine group wins from 14 games, they were on the end of a hammering in the last eight tie against Somerset at Taunton when the hosts posted 265-5 and bowled the Falcons out for only 74 – a 191-run margin of victory.
They have lost overseas linchpin batter Shan Masood to Yorkshire, and he will captain them in the second game on. Masood scored 547 Blast runs last term.
South African batter Leus de Plooy is their new captain for 2023, and he will be key to success, as will fellow experienced batter Wayne Madsen.
Like Lancashire, they will choose from three overseas players, including Pakistan pacer Zaman Khan, who was signed earlier this week and is due to arrive in England over the next week or so.
Sri Lankan fast bowler Suranga Lakmal and Pakistan batter Haider Ali are their other overseas players, and they have been signed to play in all competitions.
With the ball last year, tall fast bowler George Scrimshaw impressed with 23 wickets. Only Lancashire’s Richard Gleeson (25) and Leicestershire’s Naveen-ul-Haq (24) were more prolific across the competition.
Brooke Guest, Mattie McKiernan, Luis Reece and Mark Watt have all previously represented Lancashire.
Opposing player to watch:
Take a look at the stats from last year’s Blast and fast bowler Sam Conners didn’t stand out for Derbyshire. But he could this summer.
The England Lions fast bowler, 24, was behind the likes of fellow quicks George Scrimshaw (23) and Hayden Kerr (15) in the wickets taken list. But it was really his first season of Blast cricket, him making 12 of 18 career appearances in 2022.
He impressed with 12 wickets in six matches in the One-Day Cup which followed and will be hoping to kick on from a low key start to this season in Championship cricket (11 wickets in five matches).
Lancashire have only lost twice to Derbyshire in the last five Blast campaigns, though one of them was in the last meeting between the two – at the Incora County Ground last June.
Derbyshire won an enthralling affair by five runs on the back of posting 188-8 batting first, including captain Sham Masood’s 75 off 50 balls at the top of the order.
He shared 99 for the third wicket, from 51-2, with Wayne Madsen, who crashed a blistering 70 off 31 balls. They were the only two home batters to reach 20.
Richard Gleeson claimed three wickets for the Lightning, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough.
Lancashire were well placed in the chase at 93-1 in the 10th over, and Tim David’s 42 off 23 balls looked set to seal a victory as he backed up 42 from Luke Wells and Steven Croft’s 47.
But, with 11 needed off the last over, he was kept away from the strike as fast bowler George Scrimshaw only conceded five runs and trapped Rob Jones lbw, leaving the visitors stranded on 183-5.
What they said:
When you listen to Daryl Mitchell talk about playing the game of cricket, it is clear that he believes having a relaxed attitude is key to success – particularly when it comes to T20.
Mitchell has had a fabulous few years in all formats of the game, and the New Zealander is now one of world cricket’s premier all-rounders.
He will surely be one of Lancashire’s key men if the county are to succeed this summer.
“The cool thing about T20 is that you go out there and have a crack and have some fun. With the class of the players we’ve got, hopefully we can go a long way in this competition.
“It will be awesome to get stuck in. There’s a lot of games in a very short period of time.
“As a group, I know we’ve had some success in the last few years, and we’re excited. We’ll do everything we can to give ourselves the best chance.”
The short and sharp nature of the 14-game group stage is something Mitchell is relishing.
“It’s the nature of international cricket at the moment with how busy the schedules can be,” he said. “You almost go into auto pilot and get used to playing every second or third day.
“This is what we’re born to do, and you have to pinch yourself and be very grateful to have the opportunity.”
The Manchester-raised Kiwi is also well aware of the huge Roses rivalry and can’t wait to get stuck into the two clashes at Headingley on June 1 and at Emirates Old Trafford on June 30.
He said: “I’ve definitely heard about them and watched a fair few on TV.
“That’s why you play the game, to play in front of big crowds and in big moments.
“That will be a cool thing to tick off in your career, to say you’ve played in one of those games. I’m really looking forward to it.”
And, obviously, Lancashire start their campaign at Edgbaston and will be hoping to end it at the same venue in mid-July: “That would be awesome,” added Mitchell. “But there’s a lot of cricket to be played between now and then.”
A good day out with the bat at Edgbaston could see Steven Croft reach 5,000 career T20 runs.
Croft, from 226 T20 appearances, has 4,936 runs to his name. Since debuting for Lancashire against Derbyshire at Derby in 2006, Croft has scored 4,468 of those for the county. He is the leading run-scorer. The next best is Karl Brown with 2,188.
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