Quarter-finals beckon as Lancashire enjoy convincing Blast win
REPORT: Lancashire Lightning v Birmingham Bears
A half-century by Karl Brown and 3-23 by Matt Parkinson helped Lancashire reach the brink of qualification for the quarter-finals of the Vitality Blast after the Lightning convincingly defeated Birmingham Bears by 37 runs at Emirates Old Trafford.
Unchanged Lancashire posted a good total after winning the toss with Karl Brown leading the way 61 while a late innings 41 not out by Jordan Clark kept the innings’ momentum going as the Lightning made 185-5.
And the Lightning attack took wickets regularly throughout the Bears reply before three wickets in four balls by Matt Parkinson ended any threat of the visitors reaching their target.
Birmingham opted to go for spin at the start of the Lancashire innings with Jeetan Patel, Josh Poysden and debutant Alex Thomson bowling the first five overs. And it was off-spinner Thomson who made the breakthrough when Alex Davies was caught at backward point for 17.
Arron Lilley continued where he left off last night at Headingley, hitting his ball for four and launching Aaron Thomason for a huge six over mid-wicket as the Lightning ended the six-over powerplay on 53-1.
Lilley departed in the following over, lbw to Thomson for 11, but Lancashire continued to progress steadily, Dane Vilas hitting Poysden for a straight six in reaching the halfway mark on 82-2.
Karl Brown survived a close call when ‘caught’ at deep mid-wicket by Sam Hain, the fielder making a valiant, but unsuccessful, attempt to throw the ball into the air before stepping over the boundary, with the umpires signalling a six.
And Brown, who is in scintillating form, continued to hit out reaching his second half-century in two days off 32 balls when hitting Grant Elliott over the ropes at mid-wicket for his third six and also posting the fifty partnership with Vilas off 34 balls.
The Lightning skipper fell to a catch by Patel on the long-on boundary for 25 to give Thomson a third wicket with Lancashire on 113-3 in the 13th over.
Brown departed in similar fashion, caught on the mid-wicket fence for 61 off 41 balls by Hain off Thomson-who finished with excellent figures on debut of 4-35 to leave the score on 128-4 in 15th over.
The Lightning batsmen hit out successfully from that point across the closing five overs, adding 51 runs despite losing Steven Croft to a catch at deep mid-wicket by Hain off Thomason for 5 at the start of the 17th over.
Jordan Clark led the way with an unbeaten 41 off 25 balls, including a six over mid-wicket off Patel in 18th over, while James Faulkner contributed 19 off 8 balls including a six during a final over that saw 17 runs added to the burgeoning total.
Defending 185-5 the Lightning made a great start with the ball when the Bears’ leading run-scorer Ian Bell chopped onto his stumps off Faulkner for 2. And Croft backed that up by bowling pinch-hitter Thomason for 2 to leave the visitors on 17-2 in the 4th over.
It quickly got worse for Birmingham when Davies pulled off a great run out with a direct hit from short third man to send back Ed Pollock for 15 to make the score 26-3 in the 5th over.
A couple of boundaries by Hain pushed Birmingham up to 42-3 by the end of the powerplay.
But two wickets in two balls by Matt Parkinson ended the Bears challenge by the end of the 10th over. First Hain was stumped by Vilas off Parkinson for 34 and Colin de Grandhomme was bowled first ball to leave Birmingham struggling on 71-5 at the halfway stage.
Parkinson made it three wickets in four balls when he had Elliott stumped by Vilas at the start of the 12th over and from 75-6 the visitors spluttered along to finish way short of their target.
Faulkner wrapped things up with two wickets in two balls to leave Birmingham 148 all out with only Adam Hose putting up any resistance with 45 off 39 balls.
Tonight’s win means Lancashire are almost certain to reach the quarter-finals. We will finish above either Notts or Yorkshire-who still have to play each other again-and have a four point lead and vastly superior net run-rate over Birmingham with two games left.
One more point would settle matters, but may not be needed.
In fact the Lightning can still harbour hopes of landing a home quarter-final by winning their two remaining games.
Matt Parkinson is hoping the last two wins will help the Lightning push on to finish the group strongly.
“We are aiming to try and finish with four wins from the last four games,” he said, “and take momentum from the last group games into the knock out stages.
“To go from the defeat against Durham and then put in the two performances yesterday and today is fantastic.
“From a batting point of view we lacked intent against Durham and to come up six short on that wicket was not acceptable.
“It’s not the way we want to play our cricket.
“Having had that experience, we sat down as a team and spoke about how we want to play our cricket. The response at Headingley and tonight was great.
“At Headingley we chased down 180 very easily. Tonight the wicket was quite different. It was a bit sticky, the ball was stopping a little bit, and Birmingham had a good spin attack.
“The intent we showed in the past two games compared with the Durham I think you could say was a lesson learned.”
Parkinson took three for 23 and would have career-best figures but for a late dropped catch, while he came mightily close to taking Lancashire’s second ever T20 hat-trick. Quite a night!
Asked about his near hat-trick, he said: “The best ball was probably the de Grandhomme one.
“But I’m good mates with Sam Hain so from a personal point of view it would be that one,” he grinned.
“I didn’t think the hat-trick ball was out,” he added. “But Dane seemed convinced so I went with him!”
Lancashire travel to Chester-le-Street to play Durham Jets on Sunday (2.30pm) and finish their T20 group games with the return game against Birmingham Bears at Edgbaston on Wednesday (7pm).
Photos: Simon Pendrigh