Lancashire Lightning - Royal London One-Day Cup
REPORT: Lancashire Lightning v Northants Steelbacks, Royal London One-Day Cup
Northants overcame a Lancashire record score to run out six-wicket winners in today’s Royal London One-Day Cup match at Liverpool Cricket Club to put a big dent in Red Rose qualification ambitions in this competition.
A century partnership between Alex Wakely and Rob Keogh steered the visitors through to victory after Lancashire had earlier fought back well to post 324-8, their highest-ever total against Northants in one-day cricket.
The Steelbacks top order responded well despite losing Josh Cobb to James Anderson’s first delivery, the batsman edging to Ryan McLaren at slip with the ball bouncing out his hands but straight to wicketkeeper Alex Davies who completed the catch.
It was a rare moment of success during the early overs of the Northants reply for the Red Rose attack however, as Richard Levi mounted a one-man assault on the Lancashire bowlers hitting 12 boundaries in a rapid, eye-catching, innings of 63 from 42 balls.
Levi and Rob Newton added 92 in 14 overs before Levi pulled Jordan Clark’s first ball to McLaren at mid-on. Newton followed after edging the first ball of Tom Bailey’s second spell to Davies for 44 to leave the visitors on 125-3 at the start of the 19th over and bring the hosts back in to the game.
Stephen Parry helped to increase the pressure with a fine five over spell that cost only 14 runs but Alex Wakely and Rob Keogh kept Northants on track with a tremendous partnership of 152 from 23 overs that steadily eased the pressure on the visitors.
By the time Keogh departed for an excellent 69 off 70 balls after chopping on to his stumps off Anderson to leave Northants 277-4, the pair had successfully taken the game away from Lancashire with 48 runs required with more than 8 overs still remaining.
Northants skipper Wakely went on to reach a fine century off 92 balls, and he was there at the end on 109 not out to see Adam Rossington finish the game with a six in the 47th over.
At the start of the day Northants won the toss and elected to bowl on a wicket that offered some early assistance before getting increasingly better to bat on throughout the afternoon in gloriously sunny weather.
Half centuries by Dane Vilas, McLaren and Clark rescued Lancashire’s innings from a perilous 94-5 to steer the Lightning to a total of 324-8 from their 50 overs.
Clark hit 24 from the 50th over bowled by the suffering Nathan Buck, finishing his innings of 76 from 51 balls with a huge six over wide long-on to complete a great fightback by the Red Rose side.
Vilas and McLaren had formed the first alliance of any significance in adding an entertaining partnership of 82 inside 13 overs, a Lancashire record in one-day matches against Northants for the 6th wicket.
The pair came together in the 19th over with Lancashire in trouble, Vilas bringing up the Lightning hundred in the 21st over by straight driving Azharullah for four and the South African was well supported by compatriot McLaren in rebuilding the Lancashire innings.
Vilas hit off spinner Rob Keogh for the first six of the game in the 25th over as the Lightning reached the halfway stage on 128-5 and he reached his first one-day half-century for the Red Rose from 39 balls when driving and cutting Steven Crook for consecutive boundaries five overs later.
Vilas’s fine innings ended on 61, with Lancashire 176-6 after 31 overs, when he cut Ben Sanderson to Newton on the deep cover boundary, but McLaren continued to push the score along steadily reaching his half century from 74 balls with a lovely straight drive for four off Keogh.
Clark joined forces with McLaren to pummel the Northants attack during the closing overs with a quite magnificent innings, the pair adding 108 runs from 16 overs for the 7th wicket-another Lancashire one-day record against Northants.
McLaren perished hitting out, well caught by a diving Steven Crook at long-on after making a vital 79 before Clark’s thunderous finish.
Earlier an eventful first over saw Karl Brown twice drive Sanderson for four but the bowler struck back, having Alex Davies caught at second slip for 0.
Despite the early loss of a wicket, Brown continued to punish the Northants bowling with an outstanding display of attacking strokes. In fact the right handed batsman hit all of the first eleven boundaries in the Lancashire innings, reaching his half-century from just 37 balls.
By then Haseeb Hameed had had briefly featured, making 7 before driving Nathan Buck to Graeme White at backward point and Brown was the next to go when lbw to Steven Crook for 58.
Liam Livingstone then pulled Muhammad Azharullah to deep backward square leg for 10 to leave Lancashire struggling on 77-4 in the 15th over and the Northants paceman was celebrating again four overs later when he found movement off the pitch to induce an edge from Lightning skipper Croft on 8, well caught by Rossington behind the stumps.
Lancashire then rallied well, but their big total proved to be not enough.
Jordan Clark, while naturally disappointed with today’s loss, believes Lancashire are not too far away from turning their form around in this competition.
“With our batting, we’ve got a strong line up but we haven’t clicked yet as a team,” he said.
“If we can get a strong start and middle part (in our innings) I think we could be aiming to go as high towards getting scores approaching 400. You need to be getting above that 350 mark with the bat, because when the opposition batters are coming hard at you and putting you under pressure, it’s difficult to defend.
“I think our bowling has been a little bit off the boil too, and it’s team performances that win you games but we haven’t clicked in that department (as a team) yet.”
Assessing today’s game Clark added: “I thought it was a decent wicket. Obviously the collapse in the early overs wasn’t ideal.
“It put the lower order on the back foot and meant we had to rebuild without taking any risks. Trying to build partnerships with intensity was difficult but we did manage to get up to a decent total.
“It was a good recovery but we were thirty runs short.”
The dry conditions of late meant the outfield at Aigburth was lightning-quick and Clark agreed saying: “hitting the ball along the floor, even into the wind, you got value for your shots.
“Northants took that into their batting; they hit strong shots and got value for them. They put us under pressure from the start, and batted well throughout.
Three defeats from three games means Lancashire face an uphill struggle if they are to qualify from the North Group and Clark says: “We’ve got to go (to Edgbaston) now with the mentality that we’ve nothing to lose.
“Go hard and back ourselves and our skills and hopefully produce a team performance that will let us come away with a win.
“In my time at Lancashire once we’ve got a win, it has given us momentum and got us on a roll. We are looking to do that and get the ball rolling on Sunday.”