T20 Finals Day
Lancashire’s maiden NatWest T20 Blast may have been a long time coming, but it was definitely worth the wait.
The Lightning have endured a series of near misses down the years, most notably at five previous Finals Days since 2004. Who could forget the semi-final Super Over agony against Leicestershire in 2011, while the last-over defeat to Birmingham in the 2014 was still very fresh in the memory.
And then there was the heartbreaking quarter-final Bowl Out exit to Somerset in the Old Trafford Indoor School back in 2009. Some of these Lancashire players could have been forgiven for thinking ‘it might never happen’. Not Stephen Parry, though. I remember chatting to Stephen to preview the quarter-final clash with Kent.
The venue was a rainy Horsham at the end of July. The RL50 match against Sussex was just about to be called off, so I took the opportunity to look ahead three weeks to Canterbury - and a touch further.
I asked Stephen whether his confidence in Lancashire’s ability to win the T20 title had been knocked.
“We were having a couple of beers after the Birmingham final year, and me, Crofty and Browny said ‘we’ll win it before one of us doesn’t play any more, you know that don’t you!’” was his response.
This was the very first thing I thought about when Gavin Griffiths kept his nerve to defend 21 off the last over against Northamptonshire in the final. ‘It’s a funny old game’, I thought.
Lancashire, by their own admission, far from dominated this competition.
They sneaked into the quarters in fourth place in the group, largely down to winning a low-scoring thriller against Birmingham at Edgbaston right at the back end of the group stages.
From then on, they played ruthless cricket and took advantage of the odd slice of luck here and there. James Faulkner smashed the final ball of the quarter-final down to long-on for two to secure a tie and win on fewer wickets lost in pursuit of 143. But the ball ricocheted down there off the stumps at the non-striker’s end. It could oh so easily have hit the stumps flush and stopped dead. That was a kind of ‘name on the trophy’ moment.
Faulkner was brilliant throughout the competition with bat and ball. He was the joint leading wicket-taker with 25 alongside Parry, who also enjoyed a stellar campaign to put his name up in lights.
He was key in strangling Hampshire in the semi-final, with his 3-21 from four bowling them out for just 115 before Karl Brown’s unbeaten 45 anchored a routine chase.
Seamer Griffiths, on debut, memorably bowled a maiden with his very first over in that contest.
There was a stage in the final against Northants when things were very much in the balance. Chasing 167, the Steelbacks were 133-4 early in the 18th with Shahid Afridi going strong.
Thankfully, Griffiths got him caught at deep cover and the Lightning closed out a glorious triumph, which also included two cracker-jack Roses wins over Yorkshire.
It couldn’t have worked out any better!
Words: Graham Hardcastle