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Derbyshire becomes the last team from the North group to gets Vitality Blast 2018 campaign underway and it will be hoping to build on the success of last year. The Derbyshire Falcons won 8 out of their 14 matches last year, the most of any team, but ended up losing in the quarter-finals. They have made some exciting acquisitions that should help them be competitive once again.
Up against the Derbyshire Falcons will be Lancashire Lightning who have started their campaign with a loss. A poor white ball summer threatens to continue for Lancashire if it cannot stem the rot quickly and rack up a few wins.
John Wright brought about a transformation in the Derbyshire Falcons last year as he guided them to their best-ever finish since 2005. This year, the stakes are going to be higher as the other teams will have Derbyshire in their crosshairs.
A few interesting off-field moves have already piqued the interest of the cricket watching public. While every other county seems to be running after wrist spinners and mystery spinners, John Wright has loaded his side with genuine pace.
Lockie Ferguson from New Zealand, Wahab Riaz from Pakistan, Hardus Viljoen as Kolpak signing, and Safyaan Sharif from Scotland all give a very potent look to Derbyshire’s fast bowling. There is Ravi Rampaul as well in the squad and Derbyshire Falcons are truly spoiled for choice when it comes to picking their fast bowlers.
We would have liked to see a quality spinner in there as well but perhaps John Wright knows something that everyone else is missing.
For Derbyshire to be a force this year, Wayne Madsen must continue his brilliant form in the Vitality Blast. He scored 526 runs last year and picked up 13 wickets as well. He could be the most important player in this squad in terms of lending balance.
Luis Reece scored a lot of runs and hit plenty of sixes but he is going to be missing for a large chunk of this series because of injury. In his absence, we would like to see young Matt Critchley and Call MacLeod from Scotland take the attack to the opposition bowlers.
Derbyshire has plenty of talent in its squad and should be a handful if they can get their balance right.
BT Slater, MJJ Critchley, Calum MacLeod, WL Madsen, AL Hughes, GC Wilson, D Smit, Wahab Riaz, Hardus Viljoen, Lockie Ferguson, Ravi Rampaul.
A good batting performance against the Worcestershire Rapids did not amount to much as the bowlers were unable to defend the total. These things do happen in T20 cricket, though, and Lancashire Lightning has to move on quickly.
Liam Livingstone got a start at the top of the order but could not carry on. In fact, that was the story for most of Lancashire’s batsmen as almost all of them got starts but were unable to convert that into a big total.
Davies, Lilley, Vilas, and Clark all got a few runs and some time in the middle which has to be worth something going forward. It was very refreshing to see Keaton Jennings make full use of the opportunity and play a very attractive knock for 50.
We were worried that Jennings would have a tough time adapting in the middle but he has started the tournament well. Lancashire could also think about using Faulkner as a pinch hitter up the order because otherwise, that part of his game is going to be wasted at number 8.
The bowling for Lancashire Lightning was not bad but it certainly can be better. Faulkner had little impact as he took one wicket, Mennie was expensive, Parry inconsistent, and Parkinson ineffective. It was actually the pair of part-timers that picked a few wickets and pulled things back.
Lancashire will need a lot more from Mennie and Faulkner going forward otherwise they are going to struggle in this competition.
Alex Davies, Liam Livingstone, Arron Lilley, KK Jennings, DJ Vilas, Steven Croft, Jordan Clark, James Faulkner, Matt Parkinson, Toby Lester, Graham Onions.
The team winning the toss is likely to field first
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No chance of rain has been forecast for match day and the weather is expected to be sunny throughout. The pitch is going to be very interesting to watch. With the squad that Derbyshire has, loaded with pace, we think it is likely to see some pace, bounce, and a little grass on the surface.
The batsmen will enjoy the ball coming on to the bat but the initial few overs might be difficult to see off. A score of around 150 could be par for the course.
Derbyshire has beaten Lancashire in three of the last five matches that they have played in T20 cricket. Lancashire is also going through a bad patch in terms of its white ball performances and has lost the opening match. With a slew of international quality fast bowlers to pick from, a young and exciting batting lineup, plus home advantage, Derbyshire Falcons seems to be the team to back here.
Back Derbyshire to win.