Road to the 2020 Blast quarter-final
Leicestershire Foxes reached the quarter finals of the Vitality Blast for the first time in three years following a dramatic final day of group stage fixtures in the competition, which saw them travel north to Emirates Old Trafford to take on the already qualified Lancashire Lightning.
The Foxes claimed passage through to the quarter finals following a round of group stage fixtures in which they needed three results to go in their favour.
The trip up north was made under the pretence that the Foxes needed to claim victory over Lightning, and thanks to an impressive Foxes' sixteenth over bowled by skipper Colin Ackermann, they made sure that they held up their end of the bargain.
A last-ball victory over Somerset for Gloucestershire ticked another box, a comprehensive victory for Notts Outlaws over Durham ticked another box which left the Foxes needing a Northamptonshire Steelbacks victory over Birmingham Bears. Ironically, Tom Taylor was the man that ultimately sealed the Foxes’ passage through to the quarter finals with an unbeaten 50 which saw the Steelbacks claim victory over Birmingham Bears.
This meant that Leicestershire Foxes, Birmingham Bears and Northamptonshire Steelbacks all finished their respective Blast campaigns sitting on 11 points. However, the Steelbacks’ victory over Bears gave them a positive run-rate, bettering that of the Bears’, securing second spot in the group and with it a place in the quarter finals.
This then left the Foxes and the Bears on 11 points. The Foxes, though, following their victory and Bears’ defeat finished the day with a superior run-rate, claiming ther final spot through to the quarter finals.
The Foxes got their 2020 Vitality Blast campaign up and running with a washout against Derbyshire Falcons at the Fischer County Ground, despite the fixture being an away fixture Leicestershire as Derbyshire’s Incora County Ground was being used as a bio-secure venue for the Australia squad ahead of their six-match international series against England.
The following fixture also fell victim to the weather, despite the Foxes managing to complete their innings at the Fischer County Ground against Lancashire Lightning. The Foxes saw the debut of Gareth Delany as they posted 150 for nine before the umpires called time on the fixture.
The Foxes went into their televised fixture with two points from two games following the rain-affected fixtures, as both the Foxes and Durham travelled to Yorkshire’s Emerald Headingley which served as Sky Sports’ base for the North group.
The Foxes romped to a 30-run victory as a second wicket partnership between Gareth Delany (68, 45b) and Arron Lilley (69, 45b) saw the Foxes post 177 for six. The Foxes’ bowling then responded by claiming eight Durham wickets and restricting them to 147 runs, with Callum Parkinson the pick of the bowlers posting 4-0-21-3.
Leicestershire were unbeaten from their first three, albeit only completing one fixture as they travelled back up to Leeds to take on Yorkshire Vikings who just suffered a heavy defeat at the hands of Notts Outlaws the match prior.
However, the rain would prevail once again as both teams picked up a point without a ball being bowled at Emerald Headingley.
This meant Leicestershire headed to Trent Bridge to face North group table-topping Notts Outlaws in the first East Midlands Derby of the 2020 competition.
The Foxes won at Trent Bridge last season thanks to a career-best performance from Arron Lilley in a rain-affected 11-over a side fixture, but the Foxes’ unbeaten start to this year’s campaign soon came to an end.
The Foxes batted first and struggled to form any meaningful partnerships in the middle with Irish international Gareth Delany top-scoring for the Foxes with a 19 ball 25.
Leicestershire put on a run-chase of 124 for Notts who exploded out of the blocks with a 23 ball 44 from Alex Hales which set Outlaws on their path to victory.
Outlaws claimed the win with five wickets and five overs to spare as skipper Christian and Mullaney cantered over the line.
The Foxes’ schedule didn’t get any easier with the visit of Yorkshire Vikings to the Fischer County Ground scheduled seven days later, following a brief intermission of the Vitality Blast season which saw Leicestershire travel back up to Headingley to take on Yorkshire CCC in the concluding round of the 2020 Bob Willis Trophy.
The Vikings travelled to the Fischer County Ground a point behind the Foxes, looking to over take them and grab hold of third place in the Vitality Blast North group.
A strong start from the Vikings, and in-particular Adam Lyth (71, 46b) saw the visitors post 188 for six, leaving the Foxes a chase of 189 for the win.
Leicestershire started well but needed a fruitful partnership after Vikings claimed the wicket of Lilley (30, 14b) after 7.4 overs with the Foxes on 61 for two.
An 88-run partnership of Delany (64, 41b) and Ackermann (58, 34b) then followed to assert the Foxes upon the tie.
Last-ball heroics were needed from Ben Mike as he hit Lyth for six over the pavilion, to secure the three-wicket victory of the Vikings.
Successive defeats to Durham Cricket and Derbyshire Falcons then halted the Foxes’ progression through to the knockout stages as Durham claimed a six wicket victory at Chester-le-Street with 4.4 overs remaining.
The defeat in the North was followed by defeat back at the Fischer County Ground as the Foxes failed to capitalise on the Falcons’ score of 147, as they fell five runs short of the 148-run target.
These two defeats left the Foxes needing to beat the Outlaws and Lightning to have any chance of progressing through to the 2020 quarter final stage.
The Outlaws travelled to Leicestershire three days after the Falcons defeat as they looked to cement top-spot in the North group.
The visitors posted 162 for seven in an innings that saw Callum Parkinson claim his 50th T20 wicket in Leicestershire colours. The left-arm spinner also claimed the wicket of Alex Hales (11, 13b) with a stunning jaffa that beat the Notts man’s bat and clipped the top of off-stump.
The Foxes started slowly in their reply, and lost quick wickets of Welch (6, 7b) and Delany (12, 8b) after 2.6 overs leaving them on 26 for two with Lilley and Ackermann at the crease.
Once again, the duo had to dig in and grind a partnership out to give the home side any chance of winning the match.
Lilley (34, 23b) and Ackermann (67no, 53b) posted a third wicket partnership of 75 which left Leicestershire needing 63 runs from the final 9.2 overs.
The wickets of Dearden (0, 3b), Rhodes (1, 5b) and Hill (11, 12b) fell quickly as Ackermann was partnered in the middle by Parkinson (13no, 8b) with Leicestershire needing 24 from the final 3 overs.
Parkinson opened the 19th over at the crease and began well by claiming his first boundary of the game after sending Christian for four.
He then ended the over with another four after clipping Christian over cover for four more to claim 12 from it leaving the Foxes requiring six from the final over.
Ackermann and Parkinson ran up the remaining runs in the final over as the Foxes claimed a four-wicket victory with one ball remaining.
Leicestershire travelled to Emirates Old Trafford looking for the win to give themselves every chance of qualifying and won the toss with skipper Ackermann electing to bat first.
The Foxes posted a competitive 154 for five thanks to a 36 ball 43 from Nick Welch and a 41 ball 49 from Arron Lilley, with Ackermann chiming in with a 28 ball 29 to keep the scoreboard ticking over.
The bowling unit then responded by claiming the wicket of Liam Livingston (20, 14b) with the final ball of the powerplay leaving Lightning on 38 for 1 after six.
The home side then grew into the game with their second wicket partnership of Davies (52, 48b) and Croft (36, 31b) with the stand coming to an end on 74 with Lighting on 112 for two.
Three balls later, and Lightning were on 112 for four with Ackermann claiming three wickets for one run in the sixteenth over to give the Foxes the momentum heading into the final four overs with Lancashire requiring 42 further runs.
The wicket of skipper Dane Vilas (0, 1b) fell in the next over off the bowling of Klein as the Foxes then managed to restrict Lancashire for the remaining overs, claiming a 22-run victory.
Victories for Notts Outlaws against Durham Cricket, Gloucestershire against Somerset and Northamptonshire Steelbacks against Birmingham Bears saw the Foxes qualify for their first Vitality Blast quarter final since 2017 in a dramatic final round of group stage fixtures around the country.