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Matt Parkinson aiming to finish on a roll as Lancashire's spin troop head to Finals Day

After a frustrating summer with injury the legspinner will be a key weapon for Lancashire at Edgbaston

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
Matt Parkinson has been a key cog in Lancashire's spin-heavy formula  •  Getty Images

Matt Parkinson has been a key cog in Lancashire's spin-heavy formula  •  Getty Images

Over the last four seasons, Lancashire are the only team in the T20 Blast to have bowled more overs of spin than seam, and have won more games in the competition than anyone other than their semi-final opponents on Saturday, Nottinghamshire.
Their spin-heavy strategy is born of their home conditions: on slow, dry Emirates Old Trafford pitches with vast square boundaries, batsmen generally have to settle for taking ones and twos to fielders in the deep, or end up holing out if they dare to take on Lancashire's spinners.
Not that they are home-track bullies. "We tend to go away and just back our spinners to be good enough to perform on any pitch," explained Matt Parkinson, who is the Blast's leading wicket-taker since 2017 and has been Lancashire's main spin threat. "We're probably known for the spinners coming in the middle - the club have done that for a long time, going way back."
Parkinson has been one of nine spinners used by Lancashire in the Blast in the last four seasons. Stephen Parry is still at the club but has been used only once since 2018, while Zahir Khan, Mark Watt and Glenn Maxwell have all come in for a single season. Arron Lilley, primarily a batsman in T20, has moved to Leicestershire, but Steven Croft, Liam Livingstone and young left-arm spinner Tom Hartley now form the core group supporting Parkinson.
Twice in three years they have rocked up at away quarter-finals expecting flat pitches on small grounds to negate their spin threat, only for the surface to play into their hands: at Canterbury in 2018, Sam Billings bemoaned a "slow snot-heap" and at Hove on Thursday, Parkinson admitted that the side had no real idea what a good score would be on an uncharacteristically sluggish hybrid.
"I didn't think it would break up the way it did," he said. "We probably underestimated [our score of 140] thinking we were meant to get 170-180, which is what the stats say is a good total here. The past two away quarter-finals, we've gone down there with some nerves about whether it would suit our spinners, but both times we've done well."
In fact, "done well" is an understatement: Hartley, Livingstone and Parkinson took 8 for 50 in 9.2 overs between them to roll Sussex for 95, and secure a Finals Day berth.
Strategically, a crucial factor was that Sussex fielded only one left-hander in their top six, the explosive Delray Rawlins. For all three spinners, their stock ball turns in against left-handers, which has meant that their economy rates have been significantly better against right-handers over their Blast careers - though Livingstone would likely have used his offbreaks against Rawlins.
But Luke Wood pegged back Rawlins' off stump inside the Powerplay and ensured a right-handers' bloodbath in the middle overs, with all three spinners turning the ball away from the bat and foxing the Sussex middle order with subtle changes of length and pace.
Things could be tougher against Nottinghamshire in the semi-finals: they have two left-handers in their middle order in Ben Duckett and Tom Moores, both of whom possess excellent T20 records against spin. Parkinson tends to be expensive against lefties, but also takes a wicket every 10.65 balls against them; captain Dane Vilas will have to decide whether he should stick or twist.
For Parkinson, this has been a frustrating summer, and one he is desperate to end on a high note. His economy rate (7.84) and average (22.92) are still good, but higher than he is used to, and after making his ODI and T20I debuts over the winter he missed the Ireland series with an ankle injury and was not involved in the Pakistan and Australia squads.
"It has [been frustrating]," he said. "I was fit all of lockdown and then got in the bubble - the closest you'll get to an England squad - and had an absolute nightmare." He hurt his ankle during a fielding session, and has had it strapped throughout the Blast.
"I had a couple of setbacks: I was meant to play a red-ball game and then slipped in the warm-up, so it hadn't been a great three or four weeks. I can't tell you [what I did] other than that it was really sore for six weeks. I had a big boot on for a while. I did some ligaments and all sorts really - it was a bit of a mess."
As for whether he was considered for selection for the Pakistan and Australia series? "You'd have to ask them," he said. "I haven't heard from them in a long time. But to perform [on Thursday] was obviously awesome: I was keen to get to Finals Day just to play two more games of cricket, and try to go on a little roll to finish with some stats that people are used to."
And will he be practising bowling at the stumps with Saturday's forecast diabolical and the prospect of bowl-outs if things don't clear up on Sunday? "I don't think I'll be working on that too much. It's just a lottery, isn't it?"

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets at @mroller98