Lancs endure T20 setback
Hamish Rutherford struck 71 from 40 balls and Derbyshire produced a fine bowling performance to ease to a nine wicket victory over Lancashire Lightning in the opening NatWest T20 Blast match of the season at Emirates Old Trafford.
The welcome return of Tom Smith to the Lancashire line-up, one year and one month since his last first team game, was the main talking point from the toss after Falcons skipper Wes Durston had decided to bowl first in a match reduced by rain to 19 overs per side.
It was Smith’s first T20 game since the 2014 Final at Edgbaston, and the left hander quickly settled any nerves by pushing his third ball for a single, taking an all run four from his fifth delivery and then glancing the following ball to fine leg for four more.
Jimmy Neesham gained quick revenge when Smith on 9 played a touch too soon to a ball that seemed to stick in the pitch, the batsman easily caught by Chesney Hughes at mid-on to leave Lancashire 13-1 at the end of the second over.
Alviro Petersen, was quickly into his stride pulling Andy Carter to the square-leg fence, and the South African was joined by Karl Brown who laced Neesham over extra cover for four in the fourth over to steer the Lightning to 29-1.
Pace taken off the ball worked well for the visitors from this point, with a combination of Shiv Thakor, Alex Hughes and Matt Critchley combining to frustrate the Lancashire batsmen as just 21 runs came from the next six overs.
Brown was the next to depart, driving Thakor straight to Durston at mid-off for 11 as Lancashire reached the end of the powerplay on 39-2.
Petersen followed at the start of the ninth over, bowled by Alex Hughes for 19, as Lancashire struggled to 50-3 by the end of the 10th over.
When Liam Livingstone flipped Thakor to fine leg for four in the 13th over, it was eight overs since the previous boundary, and Lightning skipper Steven Croft quickly followed that with a pull off Critchley to mid-wicket for the first six of the match from the last ball of the 14th over to take Lancashire to 83-3.
Croft, who top-scored with 31, was lbw to Neesham at the start of the 15th over after adding 46 runs from 43 balls in partnership with Livingstone who was run out for 24 seven balls later.
Lilley struck out to good effect in tandem with Davies, who hammered consecutive fours off Neesham in the 18th over, as Lancashire reached 131-7 off their 19 overs, having scored 50 runs from the final 5 overs of the innings.
Derbyshire raced away with their reply, openers Durston and Hamish Rutherford taking 38 runs off the first 19 balls before Durston holed out to Wagner at mid-off off George Edwards for 30.
By then Lancashire had lost Gavin Griffiths to a finger injury after the 22-year-old had bowled just one ball, Smith taking over for the remaining five deliveries of the over.
Rutherford continued to attack, striking Edwards over long-on for six as the Falcons ended the powerplay strongly placed on 64-1.
Rutherford then struck Parry for a maximum that just cleared the waiting Petersen at long-on and the New Zealander went to his fifty from 24 balls with another six, this time off Lilley, in the 9th over to put Derbyshire, at 93-1, well in sight of victory with just 39 required from 10 overs.
The visitors eased to their target with Rutherford making an excellent 71 not out off 40 balls and Neil Broom an unbeaten 25 in a partnership of 94 runs in 10.2 overs.
Afterwards a disappointed Ashley Giles reflected on the nine-wicket loss saying: “We have been pumped by Derbyshire.
“Credit must go to them, they played really well. We didn't play so well and we have to play better than that in the rest of the competition.
“We talked about being pro-active and starting well. We have not done that today.
“I am not trying to make excuses, but the pitch was tricky upfront. The covers had been on it for 24 hours and even up to the toss they were still on it, and the ball just stuck in the wicket a little bit early on.
“You could see it looked tricky to score. If it got much better, I don't know.
“Overall, it is disappointing. It is not the way you want to start at home.
“We did well to get to 131 in the end, and we scored 50-odd off the last five overs. Perhaps in that period the wicket did get a bit better and into the second innings.
“It is easy to be emotional too sat on the sidelines when we are getting hammered, but we have to look at the facts too and the pitch did get slightly easier.
“The way Derbyshire played was very aggressive.
“With the bat and the ball, we didn't get our skills right. We can talk about energy and intensity all we want, but if you don't get your skills right you lose games.
“We scraped through last year, but we don't want to do that this year, we want to be playing better cricket than that.
“It is not the end of the world by any means, but we should be playing better than that, especially in front of our home supporters.
“It was a completely opposite atmosphere from the one we had at Edgbaston last year.
“You can have as much energy as you want in the field, but if we are not getting our skills right, and if we are defending a low total, it is difficult to remain with that intensity.
“Whoever we pick in that team has to play better than that.”
One positive that emerged from the game was the return of Tom Smith to first team action, and Giles was pleased for Tom adding: “It is just nice to get him back playing cricket.”