Lightning lose to the Eagles by six wickets
Lancashire Lightning’s 2019 Vitality Blast campaign came to an end at Emirates Durham tonight following a tense six wicket quarter-final defeat against Essex Eagles.
An outstanding unbeaten innings of 80 by Alex Davies helped Lancashire set Essex a challenging total of 160 but a match-winning partnership of 60 in 5 overs between Ravi Bopara and Ryan ten Doeschate took the Eagles through to Finals Day later this month.
A “very disappointed” Dane Vilas reflected on the defeat saying, “it’s always tough when you play so well in the group games and then get to the quarter finals and lose.
“We’ve had a good campaign, but it was a hard way for it to end. Topping the table means nothing when you lose it in a game like this.
“I made one or two poor decisions which let us down but the team tried their hardest and I’m proud of the boys and how they went about it.”
“And I don’t want to take anything away from the way they (Essex) batted. I think they played beautifully.”
And over his decision to bowl spin in the 19th over Vilas said: “It was a tough call.
“They (the Essex batters) wanted a bit of pace and Parky has been my go to guy all season. I definitely don’t want to blame Livvy. But looking back in hindsight I maybe should have given it to Parky. It was a tough one – they were going to go at it no matter what.
“At the end of the day we are always learning and trying to improve. Hopefully this (experience) will make us stronger and better in the long run as a team and as a squad. We’ve got a lot of young guys who will take a lot away from this campaign.”
The Lightning, who had totalled 159-5, made a great start when Saqib Mahmood struck in the second over of the Essex reply with his third ball after Tom Westley offered up a simple catch back to the bowler.
But a 30 minute interruption for rain at 8.43pm with Essex 14-1 from 3.1 overs saw a change in approach from the Eagles when play resumed as the visitors made an immediate attempt to keep in touch with the Duckworth/Lewis/Stern (DLS) target with further showers forecast.
Cameron Delport and Adam Wheater thumped 35 off 17 balls to reach 35-1 by the end of the fifth over, one run ahead on DLS, and went further ahead when Delport hit three boundaries in the sixth over to end the powerplay nicely placed on 49-1.
Two wickets in two balls in the 9th over put the game back in the balance; Delport holed out to Croft at long on off Glenn Maxwell for 44 and then Wheater was run out from a direct hit by Josh Bohannon attempting a second run.
It meant Essex reached halfway on 76-3 needing 84 more to reach their target and two runs ahead on DLS as everyone anxiously eyed the heavens.
The Eagles were steadily progressing towards their target when the game swung again dramatically again.
James Faulkner took a sensational diving catch running around the boundary from long off to dismiss the Eagles leading T20 run scorer Dan Lawrence for 15 to leave Essex 105-4 in the 15th over.
But with 46 runs required from the final 4 overs ten Doeschate struck two boundaries in the 16th over while Bopara was mightily relived to escape with a six when nearly caught at long off despite Croft’s valiant leaping attempt take the catch.
With 23 runs required from 12 balls, two further sixes from Bopara plus another by ten Doeschate in the 19th over off Livingstone brought the Eagles level in spectacular style.
Bopara added the final flourish with another six in the last over to clinch the victory with four balls to spare.
Earlier Essex had struck an early blow after winning the toss and putting Lancashire into bat when Livingstone, having pushed a well-timed four through midwicket from the third ball of the match, was bowled by Aaron Beard two deliveries later.
Bopara (2-28) made two important contributions for the Eagles with the wickets of Croft for 8, caught by Lawrence at deep mid-wicket and Maxwell lbw for 14 to leave Lancashire on 47-3 midway through the eighth over.
Davies, who took two fours off Jamie Porter’s opening over, had to settle for a much more circumspect approach on a slow pitch to help the Lightning reach halfway on 64-3 before cutting spinner Adam Zampa for the first boundary in nearly five overs at the end of the 11th over.
And Davies found great support from captain Vilas as the pair exploited the open spaces of the Riverside ground with some great placement and running to steadily rebuild the innings.
Vilas pulled Bopara to midwicket for four to bring up the 50 partnership off 47 balls while Davies went to his half century from 40 balls in the same 15th over by cutting his fifth boundary to third man.
The first six of the night came courtesy of Vilas from the last ball of the 16th over off Delport with Lancashire 118-3.
The skipper finally departed for a fine 41 off 36 balls when caught at deep backward square by Paul Walter off Porter to end an 89-run partnership off 66 balls.
Davies cheekily took two fours off Beard, a ramp and a flick, in the 19th over and a further reverse for four off the final over bowled by Harmer as the Lightning finished on 159-5, having taken 68 runs from the final six overs to post a challenging score.
In fact Davies batted through the entire Lightning innings for the third time in his career, facing 55 of the 120 balls, hitting 9 fours, making his second highest T20 score in the process.
Photos: Mark Fletcher