Hold onto your hats. The Roses T20 rollercoaster is set to take off once more, and Joe Root has strapped himself in ready for the ride.
Second-placed Yorkshire, with the England Test captain available, travel to Emirates Old Trafford for their final Vitality Blast North Group fixture on Saturday (5pm) having already qualified for the quarter-finals for the first time since 2016.
They also know a win against Lancashire in front of the Sky Sports cameras will secure a top two finish in the group.
Whilst a home quarter-final at Emerald Headingley is not possible in late August due to a clash with the England versus India Test Match (August 25-29), the club are currently exploring options as to where that quarter-final could be played should it be secured.
Wherever the quarter-final is, Lockie Ferguson will be available having agreed to stay on beyond his commitments with Manchester Originals in the Hundred.
Unfortunately, however, he won’t be available for Saturday because of the side injury which ruled him out of last Friday’s defeat at Nottinghamshire.
The postponement of Sunday’s final round game against Derbyshire due to their Coronavirus issues means the North Group will be settled on an average points per completed match basis.
A win over Lancashire would give the White Rose a better points average than third-placed Worcestershire even if they won their last two games, including tomorrow at Birmingham.
A simple equation ahead of what promises to be another chaotic fixture against the old enemy.
After all, these fixtures are never anything but chaotic and exhilarating!
“I don’t know what it is about this fixture, it’s always a cracking game whether it’s at Headingley or at Old Trafford,” said Yorkshire’s stand-in captain Adam Lyth.
“It’s always very, very close.
“It was a rain-affected at Old Trafford in 2018 and Lancs posted a huge score (176-2 in 14 overs) and we nearly chased it down, needing four off the last ball.
“We didn’t get on the right side of the result, but it was an unbelievable game.
“A couple of weeks ago at Headingley, with them needing 20 off the last over, you wouldn’t expect it to go down to the last ball. But it did.
“These are the games you want to be a part of and the ones you want to win.
“We were on the right end of the result a few weeks back, and we’d love to do the same again at Old Trafford.
“The lads are looking forward to it, and playing in front of a good crowd over there always excites us. It’s a tough place to go, but we’re confident.”
Yorkshire beat Lancashire by nine runs at Emerald Headingley at the start of the month as they defended a 181 target.
The Lightning recovered from 70-4 to require 20 off the last over from Ferguson and got it down to 10 off the last three balls before the New Zealand overseas quick claimed the Vikings first ever T20 hat-trick.
Lyth took a stunning catch in the deep as part of the hat-trick and celebrated with particular gusto – no surprise given it was Yorkshire’s first T20 win over Lancashire since 2017.
“It got a bit tense towards the end, but when you’ve got somebody of Lockie’s quality bowling the last over then it does ease things a bit,” he said.
“Hopefully it doesn’t get that tight again.”
Having won a Roses T20 game at any venue for the first time in four years, Yorkshire will now look to win one at Old Trafford for the first time since 2014.
If they do, it would be their first double over the Lightning since 2011.
Root is available having been left out of England’s T20 squad for their series against Pakistan, while Will Fraine is in a 14-man squad having recovered from his oblique strain.
Loan signing Mark Stoneman is also included.
Lyth said: “We’ve got the points on the board, and I think we deserve to qualify for the quarters.
“We’ve played some great cricket and some not so great stuff. That’s T20. You have to accept those things every now and again.
“Don’t forget, we have missed six, seven or eight lads, and that just proves how strong the squad is.
“Hopefully we’ll see five or six of the missing lads come back in for the quarter-finals, and that will be great.
“But we’ll look no further than Saturday. We want to put in a good performance.
“It won’t be a home quarter-final at Headingley, but we still want that top two finish, which could give us an advantage when we go through.”
If Yorkshire lose on Saturday and Worcestershire win one and lose the other of their remaining two games, the Vikings would still finish in the top two in the North.
Joe Root returns to the squad alongside Will Fraine who has recovered from a side injury.
Jonny Bairstow, Dawid Malan, Adil Rashid and David Willey are all unavailable due to England commitments.
Tom Kohler-Cadmore (broken finger) and Lockie Ferguson (side) remain sidelined. Fast bowler Ferguson will now represent Manchester Original in The Hundred, but will be back to represent Yorkshire in the Vitality Blast quarter final later in the year.
14-man squad to take on Lancashire Lightning
Harry Duke (Wicketkeeper)
A look at the opposition – Lancashire Lightning
Coach: Glen Chapple
Captain: Dane Vilas
Last year’s performance: Semi-finalists
2020 Leading Runscorer: Alex Davies (299, 29.9)
2020 Leading Wicket Taker: Matthew Parkinson (15, 20.66)
Overseas players: Dane Vilas (South Africa – whole tournament), Finn Allen (New Zealand – whole group stage, knockouts TBC)
Key man: Matthew Parkinson – England leg-spinner with 75 wickets in the last four Blast campaigns combined. Lightning’s leading wicket taker in each of those. Loves bowling at difficult times, including at the death.
Flies under the radar: Alex Davies – England players Livingstone, Mahmood and Parkinson get the headlines, but the diminutive wicketkeeper batsman (opener) is a star performer. Lightning’s leading runscorer for last three years, including 534 in 2018.
Best player under 24: Finn Allen – Explosive batsman, 22, who made T20 debut for New Zealand in March. Tall opener similar to Tom Banton. Could break up longstanding opening partnership between Alex Davies and Liam Livingstone.
Blast expectations: Lancashire are desperate to add to the solitary title they won in 2015 under the guidance of current England director of cricket Ashley Giles. Beaten semi-finalists in 2018 and 2020, they were beaten in the quarters by 2019 champions Essex. They have all the tools at their disposal. Power and nous with the bat, plenty of pace and spin with the ball. Especially strong on home turf at Emirates Old Trafford, where they push the boundaries out to suit their spinners. With the bat, they have more than enough power to clear those boundaries. It would be a big surprise if they didn’t reach the quarter-finals. Then it is just about being better in those pressure moments which come in knockout games. Only current champions Nottinghamshire have won more matches (119) than Lancashire (118) since the start of the Vitality Blast in 2003.
The Key Statistics
• Yorkshire have not won a T20 match at Old Trafford since 2014 and have won only four of their 15 completed games at the venue.
• The 231 for six which Lancashire scored at Old Trafford in the T20 match in 2015 is the highest against Yorkshire by any opponent.
• There have been four scores of 200 or over (three by Lancashire and one by Yorkshire) in T20 matches between these two counties and all have been made at Old Trafford.
• Lancashire’s highest individual innings in a T20 match against Yorkshire at Old Trafford is 101 by Stuart Law in 2005. No Yorkshire batsman has scored a T20 century at Old Trafford, the highest innings being Joe Root’s 92 not out in 2015.
• In 2017 Tim Bresnan took six for 19 against Lancashire at Headingley. This is the record for Yorkshire’s best bowling figures in a T20 match against any opponent. Lancashire’s best in this series is four for 23 by Matt Parkinson in the same match.
• No bowler has taken more than three wickets in a T20 innings in matches between these two counties at Old Trafford.
HOW TO FOLLOW
The game will be broadcast live on Sky Sport Cricket. There will also be a match blog on the website, and the clips available via the match centre.