Nabi onslaught takes Foxes to a five-wicket Blast victory
A career-best 94 not out by Alex Davies was matched by a brilliant 86 off 32 balls from Mohammad Nabi as the Afghanistan international took against Leicestershire Foxes to a five-wicket Vitality Blast victory in front of 9,525 at Emirates Old Trafford tonight.
The game looked to be heading Lancashire’s way when the Foxes were 92-5 at the end of the 11th over, still needing 99 for victory.
But Nabi swung away to great effect, hitting 4 fours and 8 sixes-most of them way back into the crowd-in an astonishing one-man assault to win the game in style for the visitors with eight balls to spare.
Lancashire, who had won the toss and batted, made three changes with Josh Bohannon and new signing Mark Watt, the Scotland international, making their T20 debuts for the Lightning, and all-rounder Danny Lamb returning in place of Jordan Clark (hamstring), Keaton Jennings and Stephen Parry.
Harry Swindells made his competitive debut for Leicestershire in place of Cameron Delport.
Lancashire made a lightning start with possibly their fastest 50 opening partnership in T20 history as Karl Brown and Davies flayed the Foxes attack for 53 runs off 22 balls.
Two wickets in the fifth over by Zak Chappell brought Leicestershire some relief, Brown caught at cover for 29 off 15 balls and Arron Lilley bowled second ball for four.
Davies hit the accelerator again with a four and six as Lancashire reached the end of the powerplay strongly placed on 77-2.
Debutant Bohannon helped Davies build on that start to reach the halfway stage of the innings on 103-2 with Davies going to his fourth T20 half century of the season from 28 balls.
Bohannon fell for 23 chipping Colin Ackermann to short mid-wicket to end a good third wicket partnership of 58 in the 12th over with Lancashire on 115-3.
Dane Vilas was unfortunate to be run out backing up at the bowlers end for 1 but Steven Croft, playing in his 150th T20 game for the Lightning appropriately brought up the 150 with a great front foot square drive for four in the 17th over and followed that by hitting Callum Parkinson out of the ground off the following delivery.
Croft perished for 26 hitting out to Ackermann at long-off off Gavin Griffiths.
But Davies, who sailed past his previous best score of 64 not out, made earlier this season against Northants, played some nice reverse sweeps to keep the scoreboard moving along rapidly with 59 runs coming from the final 6 overs to take Lancashire to 190-5.
Davies finished the innings with two fours to take his boundary tally to 11 fours and 2 sixes, and his innings of 94 not out was only the third occasion that a Lightning opener has batted through all 20 overs of an innings.
And it was impossible to keep Davies out of the game when Neil Dexter pulled the second ball of the Foxes innings from Croft straight to him at deep mid-wicket.
Croft then took an absolute blinder of a catch diving at backward point to snare a fierce cut by Mark Cosgrove off Toby Lester, much to the batsman’s evident disbelief, to leave the visitors on 7-2.
Watt, brought on to bowl the third over, made a dream start taking a wicket with his second ball, Chappell finding Lilley at long-on to leave Leicestershire in trouble on 16-3.
Ben Raine and Ackermann initially rebuilt the Foxes’ innings before going on to the attack with 43 runs coming from the three overs following the powerplay, and their alliance helped the visitors recover well to be 88-3 after 10 overs, needing 103 to win.
Matt Parkinson halted the recovery in its tracks with two wickets in two balls in the 11th over to leave Leics on 92-5, initially breaking the partnership of 77 when Ackermann holed out to Brown at cover for 45, before Raine also found Brown at mid-wicket after making 44.
Lancashire looked to be favourites at that point but Nabi had other ideas, reaching his fifty off 22 balls on his way to his amazing match-winning feat.
Despite his T20 best 94 not out Alex Davies couldn’t hide his disappointment afterwards admitting: “It’s all a bit raw at the minute.
“It’s nice to play well but it only really matters when you are on a winning team.
Davies says the team will take stock of the defeat over the new few days.
“We’ve got evaluate the game and work whether we needed more runs or if we didn’t bowl too well,” he said.
“We’ll let it settle and see if it was our own downfall or just a brilliant knock (from Mohammad Nabi). If it is (the latter), we’ll hold our hands up.
“We’ll have a look at the game and see what pans out.
Davies was quick to acknowledge Nabi’s effort adding: “He played brilliantly, and it’s a bit of a freak knock.
“Any time you get 190 runs in T20 you are in with a great chance of winning. We thought the pitch would get worse and halfway through felt that 175-180 would be a good score and we got past that.”
Davies now has four T20 half-centuries and nine in total this season and about his own form said: “I’m playing well, have a good tempo, good plans and routine at the moment.
“So I’m going to try and stick to them. I helped us to a good total today but it wasn’t quite enough.
Injuries and call-ups meant a number of changes in the Lightning line-up tonight to disrupt a fairly settled line-up.
“We were a very well-oiled machine for the first six games,” agreed Davies, “and won five on the bounce. Everyone knew where they were fielding, and when they were going to bat and bowl.
“New faces coming in make it tricky to get everyone on the right page straight away. I thought we kind of did that well tonight but there are still things to pick up on, like places in the field where people need to be, what angles need covering. But that will all be fine by Tuesday (for the Durham game). We’ll have sorted that out, and bring those lads up to speed.
“The players we are bringing in are good players, so it won’t take them long to adjust. I’m not really worried about it to be honest.
Lancashire are now in fourth place and face Durham at Emirates Old Trafford on Tuesday evening (6.30pm start).
“We had a big win against them early in the year,” said Davies. “So we know what they’re about. But momentum is a funny thing in T20 cricket. They are on a good run so I think it will be a good game to watch.”
Photos: Simon Pendrigh