Two of the pre-tournament favourites meet in what is arguably the standout quarter final in the Vitality Blast on Friday night when Lancashire welcome Surrey in a seriously heavyweight contest at Old Trafford.
Lancashire secured their spot in this match courtesy of finishing second in the North Group while a poor finish to the South Group saw Surrey finish third and having to go on their travels. You need the county live stream to watch this one.
The 2022 finalists probably haven’t been at their most convincing best enough in this tournament for their liking but they won the matches which mattered and are now in position to launch a tilt at going one better than they did last season. The positive for Lancashire is that their three big guns, Jos Buttler, Phil Salt and Liam Livingstone, have had 31 innings in this competition this season which have yielded just four 50s so they have got it done without always getting the output they would have expected from their star players.
It was a big thing for Lancashire to be able to hold this match. They have a lengthy unbeaten record at Old Trafford so they are very comfortable playing on this ground while opponents don’t like the pace and bounce which you won’t really get anywhere else in the North Group. You would imagine that a very deep batting unit will come off in some fashion here so the outcome of this match could be determined by Lancashire and their bowlers.
When the competition got underway Surrey were the favourites to win the title but they haven’t been quite as strong as they were expected to be and lost their way a little towards the back end of the group stage and need to put that behind them and put in a big performance here. They may be fuelled by the motivation of chucking a quarter final away last year and being determined to put that heartache behind them, but they’ll need their very best here.
After a really positive start to the group stage, Surrey finished it by losing four of their last five matches and their bowling suddenly started leaking runs at a crazy rate, as we saw in that incredible run chase that Middlesex put up a couple of weeks ago. There hasn’t been too much wrong with the batting in this recent winless run so they need their bowlers to come to the party. On paper they look more than good enough but on grass it might be a different story.
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Jos Buttler has the ability to take any attack to the cleaners and Lancashire will be hoping that the England captain is in devastating form here to give them the best chance of denting the confidence of this Surrey attack.
Jason Roy missed much of the group stage but returned towards the end of it and you feel if Surrey are going to go big enough to win here then they are going to need their own England opener to come to the party.
I’m expecting a high scoring match here, largely because of the way that this Surrey bowling unit has suddenly started going around the park. To be fair to them Somerset and Essex have very good top orders but Middlesex don’t and the fact they scored 250 against them is a huge concern because this Lancashire batting unit is about as strong as you’ll find from top to bottom, so you sense Surrey are going to have to fight fire with fire.
I think the best method of attack in this match is to go after the boundaries where there is a 41.5 line. I suspect we won’t be down the middle of the square because there is an Ashes Test match here in less than two weeks and I would imagine preparation will be underway for that down the centre of the square. That is likely to lead to a short boundary but even going the other way we know this outfield is always rock hard and lightning fast so these two powerful batting units should easily combine for 42 boundaries.
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