With Old Trafford set to host the fourth Ashes Test, Riverside Ground, Chester-le-Street will host the first quarterfinal of the 2019 Vitality Blast, between Lancashire Lightning, who topped the North Division, and Essex Eagles, who finished fourth in the South Division.
Lancashire had virtually swept anyone who came their way in the first half of the league phase, remaining unbeaten for their first 8 matches. They were significantly ahead of other teams in their division, qualified for the quarterfinals way before others, and maintained a 4-point lead till the end.
Despite their success, the Lightning crossed 190 only once, when they piled up 218/5 against Worcestershire, and went past 180 only once more. There has also been a solitary sub-130 score against them (117 by Durham), which meant that they were more sound than spectacular. An excellent bowling line-up, Matt Parkinson's ability to strike at vital moments, Glenn Maxwell's explosive batting, Liam Livingstone's all-round show have bailed them out from time to time.
Having won only 2 of their first 10 matches, the Eagles still broke through to the top eight with 3 wins and a tie in their last 4 matches. With a 27-ball 47 not out and figures of 4-0-27-2, Ravi Bopara helped them knock out Kent Spitfires in a must-win match for both sides.
Essex have 200 twice – against Surrey (226/4) and Gloucestershire (206/3) – but barring Hampshire's 139/6 in that tied match, Sussex Sharks' 159/9 has been the lowest score by any side against them. They have relied on their big hitters (Bopara, Cameron Delport, and Dan Lawrence in particular), which is something they have to do again if they have to knock the impressive Lancashire.
Head to head
Lancashire have met Essex only once in the domestic league, in the quarterfinal of Friends Provident T20 2010, at Chelmsford. Essex had won by 8 wickets thanks to Chris Wright (4-0-25-4), Mark Pettini (81 in 56), and Matt Walker (74* in 49).
Liam Livingstone (Lancashire Lightning): The Lightning boast of big hitters like Maxwell (SR 152) and Dane Vilas (155). However, Livingstone (135) has picked up 13 wickets – their second-most, after Parkinson (21) – and has conceded 7 an over. He may emerge an unexpected hero.
Cameron Delport (Essex Eagles): Delport has hit 24 sixes and 24 fours off the 176 balls he has faced in the tournament. He has been a crowd-puller throughout the tournament, and his 38-ball hundred against Surrey has arguably been the most spectacular this time.
Lancashire Lightning: Alex Davies, Liam Livingstone, Keaton Jennings, Steven Croft, Glenn Maxwell, Dane Vilas (c & wk), James Faulkner, Josh Bohannon, Saqib Mahmood, Richard Gleeson, Matt Parkinson.
Essex Eagles: Tom Westley, Cameron Delport, Adam Wheater (wk), Dan Lawrence, Ryan ten Doeschate, Ravi Bopara, Paul Walter, Simon Harmer (c), Mohammad Amir, Jamie Porter, Adam Zampa.
Lancashire to go through.