MATCH PREVIEW: Worcestershire Rapids v Lancashire Lightning

MATCH PREVIEW: Worcestershire Rapids v Lancashire Lightning

Lancashire Lightning require one point from their final two Vitality Blast North Group matches to confirm qualification.

Worcestershire Rapids at Lancashire Lightning
Vitality Blast, North Group
Friday July 1, 2022, 5.30pm
New Road

Take a look at the table and it is clear to see that it would take something remarkable for Lancashire to miss out on a place in the Vitality Blast quarter-finals.

The Lightning are two points ahead of fifth-placed Northamptonshire with a game in hand and – crucially – a vastly superior net run-rate, the first separator when teams finish level on points.

In sixth, Leicestershire are four points behind with two games remaining. Again, Lancashire’s net run-rate is vastly superior.

Lancashire could still qualify with two defeats, but one win secures qualification.

However, a home quarter-final is now less certain following a run of three defeats and a No Result in the last five North Group games, the latest of them being a narrow reverse at Derbyshire last Friday.

A top two finish in the North for a home quarter remains in our hands. Win two games and that will be secured.

But we are one of three teams all on 16 points at the head of the group.

Sunday’s opponents Birmingham lead the way on net run-rate, Lancashire are second, while Derbyshire are third. The latter have played 13 to the top two teams’ 12.

The first of two remaining games comes against Worcestershire at New Road, a side who have endured a forgettable campaign, sitting bottom of the table with only one win and 10 defeats in 12 games.

Opponents

Worcestershire’s Blast form this summer is a far cry from that of 2018 and 2019 when the Rapids were champions and runners-up in successive campaigns.

Ironically, Moeen Ali and co have beaten only league leaders Birmingham in the 2022 Blast (June 3) and have since lost six and had a rained out No Result.

Although New Zealand batter Colin Munro has had a respectable campaign with 270 runs, including two half-centuries in 11 matches, West Indies T20 legend Dwayne Bravo has not had the impact desired with only seven wickets in eight games added to 41 runs down the order .

Opener Brett D’Oliveira is the leading run-scorer with 277, while 21-year-old Jack Haynes has shown flashes of excellence with 235 runs in nine games. Like Munro, he has posted two fifties.

Four-time England T20 international seamer Pat Brown is their leading wicket-taker with 12.

Opposing Player to Watch

All-rounder Kashif Ali has only recently signed for Worcestershire, on a short-term contract.

Ali, a batter who bowls off-spin, is the first graduate of the South Asian Cricket Academy, whose management structure includes Moeen Ali and Kabir Ali, the current and former England internationals.

SACA have been playing in this season’s Second XI competition, where the 24-year-old right-hander has impressed with a trio of half-centuries and some useful bowling contributions.

The SACA program aims to give unassigned players a platform to shine in front of watching counties through full-time coaching and game time.

Ali has posted middle order scores of 3, 24, 46 not out and 17, and while not displaying the brute power for which some T20 gun batters are known, Liam Livingstone and Tim David for example, he is no slouch.

Previous meeting

Richard Gleeson took a career-best 5-33 and Tim David crashed 60 off 25 balls as Lancashire beat Worcestershire by 12 runs at Emirates Old Trafford (May 29) to secure their first victory in this season’s Vitality Blast.

After a Roses tie at the same venue two days earlier, the Lightning again posted 183-7 – the same total as they had against Yorkshire – and this time it was enough as the Rapids finished on 171-8, including Colin Munro’s 53.

Phil Salt walloped 29 off 12 balls at the top of the order, but he was one of three victims for fellow England international, the seamer, Pat Brown as Lancashire slipped to 98-6 in the 13th over.

But Singapore international David, undaunted, crashed four fours and as many sixes in his 25-ball burst, sharing a Red Rose seventh-wicket record of 91 inside seven overs with Luke Wood (22 not out).

In reply, New Zealander Munro was the main protagonist in leaving the Rapids well placed at 152-3 early in the 18th over. In fact, they were probably just about favourites.

But fast bowler Gleeson, who had earlier taken the first two wickets, returned with a vengeance, adding three more wickets, including Munro lbw in the 18th, to swing the game the home side’s way.

What they said

That five-for against Worcestershire was confirmation that Richard Gleeson was back from the brink following a near career-ending stress fracture in his back which took much longer than anticipated to heal.

The Blackpool-born quick first got diagnosed with the injury during the Covid-shortened summer of 2020, only played two first-team games last summer and was facing up to the prospect of pulling the pin on a career which had seen him win the 2016 Blast with Northants and play for his home county.

He made plans for life after cricket, including making use of a Sports Coaching degree and doing some part-time teaching at Myerscough College.

However, things have taken a very happy upturn for the popular 34-year-old.

Gleeson signed a T20 contract only for this summer to see how things went having finally been given the go ahead to get back to bowling rockets.

And, including that Worcester five-for, he has taken 20 Blast wickets in 12 games so far this season, the second best haul in the entire competition.

Speaking to the Cricketer website recently, he said: “I had some quite honest chats with the medical team who said, ‘If this gets worse, we’ll have to pull the plug. We’ve got to look at your long-term health and way of life. If you have another stress fracture, the likelihood of it healing isn’t high’.”

Thankfully, plans for life after cricket can be made at a slower rate, with thoughts now moving towards Blast silverware and further cricket later this summer in either the Hundred or the Royal London Cup with the Red Rose.

He said: “Playing games and getting through games, that’s where I’m at at the minute, and try and do the best I can.

“You can always hope for a wildcard contract (for The Hundred), but I would like another white-ball contract with Lancashire.

“It’s crunch time for me to get through this competition and hopefully get a 50-over gig.

“If I can get through that, maybe we’ll try some red ball. It’s just a case of ticking off what I can do and proving fitness and ability. At the moment I’m just happy to be back out on the park and playing games of cricket.”

How’s Stat!

Richard Gleeson’s aforementioned 5-33 against the Pears at Emirates Old Trafford means he is one of 10 bowlers who have taken a five-wicket haul in this season’s Blast.

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