MATCH PREVIEW: Lancashire v Essex, Royal London One-Day Cup
County cricket’s third competition marks almost a festival of one-day cricket throughout August.
Young players get their chance to shine, outgrounds glisten and Lancashire are aiming for silverware.
In the absence of Dane Vilas (finger), Keaton Jennings will lead the county’s pursuit of a first major List A trophy since 1999 when Lancashire were crowned CGU League champions.
That was the tail end of the famous Kings of One-Day Cricket era for the Red Rose.
Glen Chapple and Carl Crowe are on Hundred duty with the Manchester Originals, so Graham Onions and Karl Krikken will be the coaches in charge. They will get help from Craig White, who will briefly move over from his duties with the Thunder to help out.
After yesterday’s warm-up win against Cumberland at Sedbergh, Lancashire return to the picturesque Cumbrian venue to tackle an Essex side who were beaten in last year’s semi-final by eventual champions Glamorgan.
Essex actually knocked Lancashire out of last year’s competition with a come-from-behind tie at Emirates Old Trafford, but revenge was sought last month when the Lightning knocked the Eagles out of the Vitality Blast at the quarter-final stage.
As per last season, the 18 counties are split into two groups of nine. The top three advance to the knockouts.
The top team advances directly through to the semi-final on August 30, earning a home tie. To determine their opponents, second place in each group hosts third in the other group in a play-off tie on August 26.
The final is at Trent Bridge on September 17.
Jos Buttler, Richard Gleeson, Tom Hartley, Liam Livingstone, Matt Parkinson, Phil Salt and Luke Wood are all unavailable because of Hundred commitments.
Washington Sundar has been signed as the county’s overseas player for the RL50, the Indian all-rounder bidding to continue his bright start to life with the county after two productive performances in the County Championship.
Essex will be missing Sam Cook, Matt Critchley, Dan Lawrence, Michael Pepper and Adam Rossington, all of whom have Hundred contracts.
They will be captained by former England Test batter Tom Westley, while ex-Test skipper Sir Alastair Cook is likely to play for a side who impressed last year.
Essex may find it more challenging this year to replicate their run to the semi-finals in 2021.
Ryan ten Doeschate has since retired, for example, while talismanic overseas spinner Simon Harmer’s availability will be limited due to South African Test duty against England later in the month.
As aforementioned, the Chelmsford side reached the quarter-finals of this season’s Vitality Blast, beaten by Lancashire at Old Trafford.
They sit fourth in Division One of the LV= Insurance County Championship, having won four of 10 games. They are 40 points behind Lancashire in third with a game in hand.
Essex won this competition, then under the guise of the Friends Provident Trophy, in 2008, beating Kent in the Lord’s final. That was their last major List A silverware.
Opposing player to watch
Top order batter Josh Rymell played the vast majority of last season’s one-day Cup, making a fabulous 121 in their play-off win over Yorkshire at Chelmsford.
The 21-year-old from Ipswich has only made 11 first-class appearances, all last year.
He has been captaining Essex’s second-team this season and will hope to get his first-team chance over the next few weeks.
He has been in excellent form in second-team cricket of late, posting scores of 56, 128 not out and 70 in his last four innings.
He hit 49 at the top of the order in yesterday’s friendly win over Cambridgeshire at Saffron Walden.
A century from Sir Alastair Cook helped knock Lancashire out of the Royal London Cup last August following an extraordinary tie at Emirates Old Trafford.
The tie secured Essex’s progress as, chasing 251, they needed 22 off the last over with only two wickets in hand.
Simon Harmer was their hero, hitting three sixes off Steven Croft’s off-spin and later scrambling a two off the last ball to level the scores at 250-8. It was heartbreaking for Lancashire, who had to win to qualify.
Croft had earlier hit a superb 93 off 112 balls from number three to underpin Lancashire’s 250-6, wicketkeeper George Lavelle contributing a busy 52.
Pace off on a slow pitch worked well for Lancashire, Luke Wells and Croft taking two wickets, backing up fellow spinner Jack Morley’s superb 1-37 from 10 overs.
Essex wickets fell regularly to leave Lancashire on course for the knockout stages – the Eagles fell to 227-8 in the 49th over. But Harmer dragged the game out of the fire and left Lancashire shellshocked.
What they said
Glen Chapple believes Lancashire have a great chance of success in the RL50.
Head coach Chapple will be watching from afar as he works at the Hundred with the Manchester Originals.
As aforementioned, Lancashire’s team has been hit by player unavailability as well because of the Hundred. But what remains is a squad well mixed with talent, experience and youth.
“It’s an exciting team to look at and would compete in a full-strength tournament, without a doubt,” said Chapple. “With Washington in there as a great all-rounder, it’s got real balance to it.
“We believe we have a really good squad, and we’re going to go out there and do as well as we can.
“Maybe it’s lost a little bit of importance in some people’s eyes, but for the lads who take part in they will really want to win it.”
Lancashire’s player availability may be further affected by upcoming England Under 19s commitments, but Chapple added: “We should be able to get a lot of cricket into all our professionals and still be really competitive.
“It gives our players who haven’t played as much first-team cricket as they’d like a chance to show what they can do.
“We want everyone to play, but we’ll be picking teams to win games.”
Indian overseas all-rounder Washington Sundar will play his 51st career List A match tomorrow. His first 50 appearances have yielded 44 wickets and 632 runs.