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Preview: Leicestershire Foxes vs Yorkshire Vikings

— 2 July 2022

It all comes down to this. Across the two groups in the Vitality Blast, one quarter-final place remains up for grabs. It will be either the Yorkshire Vikings or the Leicestershire Foxes.

The two sides meet at the Uptonsteel County Ground, Grace Road tomorrow (2.30pm) in a winner takes all final North Group fixture.

Possibilities are aplenty for the Vikings, who currently occupy fourth place in the North – the final quarter-final qualifying position.

They could finish anywhere between second and fifth in the table, with a home tie in next week’s last eight still a possibility should they pip Derbyshire and Lancashire to second.

While it is correct to say that if the Vikings avoid defeat in the East Midlands, they will advance to the Blast quarters for the second summer running, it is clearly extremely difficult to rely on getting a tie or a No Result.

“We know what we need to do now,” said Adam Lyth. “We need to go there and win.”

Let us deal with the main one first, straight quarter-final qualification.

Yorkshire sit fourth in the table on 15 points, one clear of Leicestershire in sixth and with a vastly superior net run-rate, the first separator when teams finish level on points.

That is why a point would do the trick for the Vikings.

Forget Northamptonshire, who are fifth in the North on 14. They have completed their programme of matches and are eliminated.

Should Yorkshire win and both third-placed Derbyshire and second-placed Lancashire lose their home matches tomorrow against Durham and Birmingham, second place in the group would be achieved and a home quarter-final as a result.

“If we play to our standards with bat and ball, I’m confident we’ll get a result,” said Lyth, who hit an excellent 69 in last night’s home defeat to group leaders Birmingham Bears at Headingley.

By their own admission, Yorkshire were below standard last night in the field as Birmingham posted 238-5.

And although Lyth led a spirited response, they lost by 31 runs at 207 all out.

There is every chance tomorrow’s game will be similar to last night, another high-scoring affair. As the Foxes beat Northants at Grace Road last night by one run, they defended a target of 215.

“It will be another good wicket, and I think the average winning score is over 200 or something at Grace Road,” said Lyth. “But that plays into our hands.

“We still have a great opportunity.”

Lyth signed a new three-year contract with the county yesterday, before hitting that aforementioned 69.

He has achieved so much during his stellar Yorkshire career, two County Championship titles chief amongst his achievements. However, team success in the Blast remains to be achieved.

“We’ve been to a couple of Finals Days, and I’ve played in one (2016),” said Lyth, who has followed Harry Brook’s lead in admitting he can’t see his cricket career finishing anywhere else but Headingley.

“I’d love to play in a few more because they’re great days.

“I love playing here, and I want to finish my career here. There was never any doubt I was signing again.

“I’ve come through the age-groups, first starting in the Under 11s. It would be great to finish my career here whenever that may be.

“I’m still young and fit and am putting in performances. So hopefully there’s many more years to come.”

Leicestershire have remained in contention by winning their last four North Group games. Earlier in the competition, they also beat the Vikings by 31 runs at Headingley.

The Foxes boast the competition’s leading wicket-taker in Afghanistan overseas seamer Naveen-ul-Haq, who has struck 23 times in 13 games, including a best of 5-11.

Captain Colin Ackermann is their leading run-scorer with 295, while South African all-rounder Wiaan Mulder is their other overseas player alongside ul-Haq.

The seven teams to have already qualified for the quarter-finals are Birmingham, Lancashire and Derbyshire from the North and Surrey, Somerset, Essex and Hampshire in the South.

The ties will be played between Wednesday July 6 and Saturday July 9, with Finals Day at Edgbaston on Saturday July 16.

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