JOSH Healey (@JoshHealey04) shares his view on the fourth and final T20 Blast quarter-finals as Kent welcome Lancashire on Saturday afternoon.
Kent v Lancashire | Saturday 14.30 | Sky Sports 2
The quarter-finals come to an end as Kent Spitfires host Lancashire Lightning at Canterbury on Saturday afternoon. The women battled out an Ashes Test match here this week, but a fresh wicket should have been prepared. Usually it’s a batting beauty but perhaps the lack of sun and abundance of rain throughout the week will result in a pitch offering something for the bowlers.
Kent, who topped the South Group, are no bigger than 4/5 (William Hill), whilst Lancashire, who stumbled into fourth place thanks to a washout, are a chunky 6/5 (Paddy Power). The Spitfires went W3-L1 at Canterbury this term, pointing towards a slight home advantage, but it is worth noting Lancashire’s recent success there.
Last Saturday in the 50 over cup the Red Rose recorded a comfortable 51-run victory at Canterbury, largely thanks to a superb 91 from List A debutant Liam Livingstone. Lancashire posted a seemingly modest total of 258, but an impressive performance with the ball saw the Spitfires skittled for just 208. A similar bowling display on Saturday could see the hosts’ dynamic batting line-up tamed once again.
Bowling is the Lightning’s strong suit; their uncanny knack of taking regular wickets has seen them bowl out their opponents on four occasions this season, overall averaging eight wickets per game. On average Lancashire restrict their opponents to 153-8 when bowling first.
The likes of James Faulkner and Stephen Parry will have a serious job on their hands though as Kent’s batting has been exceptional this campaign. The Spitfires average a first innings total of 193-7, with the Lightning’s inconsistency evident in their respective average of 171-5. But the addition of Jos Buttler bolsters the Red Rose line-up, possibly evening out the contest in that department.
With a healthy blend of youth and experience that covers all bases, the visitors are the value bet at 6/5 with Paddy Power. This is Lancashire’s tenth quarter final, making them the first team to reach double figures, and that experience could prove vital against a young Kent line-up. Steven Croft’s men often thrive on the big stage – the double over Yorkshire in front of two sell out crowds as well as victory at Edgbaston in a must-win game indicates that.
There’s a shed-load of value to be had in the Top Batsman markets in this fixture. For the hosts, Alex Blake can be backed at a generous 10/1 with BetVictor. The dangerous lower-order hitter has top scored in 3/13; a win percentage of 24.1% for a 10/1 shot is very appealing.
Blake has been in good form having smashed 151 for the second XI before scoring a destructive 89 in the cup match between these two last Saturday. If Lancashire can steadily pick up wickets then Blake, who is likely to come in at six or seven, will have ample time to showcase his impressive talents, and having already gone well against this bowling attack he will be keen to get in the middle.
Turning to the visitors and young guns Liam Livingstone and Alex Davies both look hugely overpriced at 10/1 (BetVictor) and 20/1 (Paddy Power) respectively. The big-hitting Livingstone is in sublime form and will open the batting, whilst the intelligent Davies has gone well this season and will float up and down the order depending on the match situation. I wouldn’t put you off a small punt on either, particularly Livingstone.
But I’m looking towards a more experienced head in this high-stakes clash. Steven Croft, who will bat at four or five, leads the run charts for the Red Rose this season with 456 at an average of 57.
Apart from a stuttering start to his one-day cup campaign, Croft has been in excellent form. He notched fifties in Lancashire’s last three T20s as well as striking a half-century at Canterbury last Saturday. This is a wide open market but the Lightning skipper has top scored in 4/13 this campaign and provides unmissable value at 15/2 with Paddy Power. Croft should be no bigger than 5/1. He has played over 100 consecutive T20s for the Red Rose and is certainly not shy of the big occasion.
Kent v Lancashire – Lancashire to win (6/5 Paddy Power)
Kent v Lancashire – Alex Blake to be Top Kent Bastman (10/1 BetVictor)
Kent v Lancashire – Steven Croft to be Top Lancashire Batsman (15/2 Paddy Power)
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