Tom Smith has hailed the presence of opening partner Stephen Moore at the top of the Lancashire order in limited overs cricket ahead of Sunday's crunch clash in the Friends Life t20 with Notts Outlaws at Trent Bridge.
The Lightning know that a win against the Outlaws, currently top of the North Division on net run-rate, will see them top the group with 14 points from ten matches and secure a home quarter-final to boot.
Both sides have already qualified for the quarter-finals between August 6-8 with a group fixture to spare.
Lancashire Lightning squad: Glen Chapple (capt), Karl Brown, Jordan Clark, Steven Croft, Gareth Cross (wkt), Kyle Hogg, Kabir Ali, Simon Katich, Simon Kerrigan, Arron Lilley, Mitch McClenaghan, Stephen Moore, Ashwell Prince, Tom Smith.
Moore was central to the hammering of Yorkshire Vikings at Emirates Old Trafford on Wednesday with a blistering 66 off 35 balls as Lancashire chased down their 125 run target with eight wickets and nine overs to spare.
The 32-year-old right-hander has scored 13 fifties in 50 Twenty20 innings for the Lightning since joining the county in 2010, including a best of 83 not out on his debut against Durham.
Although he has found life difficult in the four-day arena during the last two seasons, he has also scored eleven fifties and three hundreds in 38 innings in 40-over cricket in his Red Rose career.
“Around the country there are not many players who play the short ball like he does,” said Smith, who claimed the man-of-the-match with two wickets and 42 against the Vikings.
“As an opening one-day batsmen over the years, he has proved it in 40-over cricket and Twenty20 cricket. He is one of the best opening batsmen in the country. He is hard to bowl at. He is an exceptional batsmen, and it shows the squad we have got that he is not getting in the four-day team.”
Moore and Smith have actually gone through similar seasons. Both have struggled to nail down a Championship spot, with the latter also suffering through injury around his one Championship appearance.
But he has also proved his worth against the white ball, and is loving life at the top of the order in Twenty20.
“I am just happy to get in the team,” he continued. “I was batting at five and six at the start of the competition, which went alright for me. It was different. But if you ask any batsmen where they want to be in Twenty20, they will say at the top of the order.
“It is a good opportunity to score runs with the power-play and the chance to bat for the full 20 overs. Down the order you don’t always get that luxury. I am very lucky to open the batting, and I have to make sure I do well because the players we have got who aren’t in the side are piling on the competition.”
Lancashire are in firmly in the mix for silverware in all three competitions ahead of the last two months of the season.
Top of the LV= County Championship’s Division Two, hot favourites for the title and even hotter favourites for promotion, they are also in the hunt for a Yorkshire Bank 40 semi-final, although they may have to win their last four group matches to achieve that feat.
“We are getting to the stage of the season now when every game is a cup final for us,” continued Smith. “And if that doesn’t get you going, nothing will.
“It’s one game at a time. We are going well and in contention in all three formats, and it was a goal of ours at the start of the season to see how far we can go in all competitions. The lads are going really well in the Championship. It was a good solid performance against Glamorgan last week, and we have beaten Northants twice in successive games.
“It has been a while since we have played in the YB40, and we have some vital games coming up in that now. We are probably going to have to win every game to get through.
“As a squad we want to win trophies, and we are in the position where we can still win three. But it is one game at a time.”
Stand-in captain Steven Croft described Lancashire’s performance against Yorkshire as near perfect, and Smith added: “We knew as a team the different departments have been going well, but it hadn’t clicked as a collective unit. On Wednesday everything came off well.”
Notts Outlaws won the reverse fixture at Emirates Old Trafford at the start of the month. They overcame Mitchell McClenaghan’s 5-29 to chase down 156 with 2.2 overs to spare.
Picture: Stephen Moore hammers a boundary off Ryan Sidebottom (c) Simon Pendrigh