Allen shines as Lancs make it two wins from two in Vitality Blast
Finn Allen struck his maiden Lancashire half century and the Lightning bowlers then stifled the Leicestershire Foxes reply as Dane Vilas’ side made it two wins from two at Emirates Old Trafford to get their Vitality Blast campaign off to a perfect start.
Allen, playing in just his 18th T20 game, produced an innings of great maturity batting through all 20 overs to make an unbeaten 73 off 51 balls to steer the Lightning to 172-8.
And after the Foxes had made a rapid start by hitting 40 off the first four overs of their reply, the Lightning spin attack combined to squeeze the visitors superbly with just 69 runs coming from the following 11 overs.
That left Leicestershire needing 61 off the final five overs and they fell 16 runs short on 156-5 despite a half century from opener Scott Steel.
The Foxes opted to open with two spinners after Vilas had won the toss but in another explosive start Liam Livingstone picked up from where he left off the previous night, striking three fours from the first four balls of the opening over from Callum Parkinson.
Livingstone then smashed overseas bowler Naveen-ul-Haq into the pavilion fence for six in the third with 31 runs taken from the first 3 overs.
Former Lancashire seamer Gavin Griffiths hit back with a double-wicket maiden taking two wickets in two balls; Livingstone nicking his first delivery to wicketkeeper Josh Inglis having made 25 off 12 balls and Davies-whose luck these past two nights has deserted him-smashing the next delivery to Naveen at cover.
Jos Buttler twice drove Naveen through extra cover in the following over to open his boundary account with Lightning well placed on 57-2 after the 6 over powerplay.
But the Foxes were jubilant when Buttler drove Colin Ackermann to Ben Mike at long-off to depart for 22 in the 8th over to dent the Lightning’s progress on 70-3.
That forced Allen, who had driven nicely-and repeatedly-through extra cover, and Vilas to proceed with a touch of caution and the pair had progressed steadily to reach 102 in the 12th over before Vilas swept Ackerman to Lewis Hill at deep backward square for 16 to end a four over partnership of 32 runs.
“It was pretty tough in the beginning,” said Finn Allen.
“Maybe trusting my game during the first twelve (overs) I knew that with wickets falling around me it was important to dig in for the lads and put in an important knock.
“It was a good time to knuckle down and get through and build some partnerships and go from there.
“It was hard to slog and hit the ball hard. You had to play proper cricket shots and stay on the ball.
“It was something I struggled to do at the beginning.
“But there was a lot of learnings to take from it, which was good for me.
Steven Croft used his feet nicely to launch Parkinson for a straight six at the start of the 15th over but was well caught by Arron Lilley running to his right on the midwicket boundary off Griffiths for 21 at the start of the following over.
And wickets continued to fall as Wood sliced Griffiths (who finished with a career-best 4-24) to Patel for 0 and Lamb chopped on off Naveen for 2 to leave Lancashire 136-7 in the 17th over.
But Allen kept the momentum of the innings going over the closing overs, reaching his half-century off 41 balls and he cut loose with a pull for 4 off Ackermann (2-22 off 4 overs) before flat-batting Naveen for a straight six and pulling Griffiths to the mid-wicket fence to finish on 73, his eighth T20 half-century with all bar one scored this year.
That led to Lancashire closing on a competitive 172-8 with 51 runs coming off the final six overs.
It was impressive how quickly Allen appears to have adapted to his new home venue.
“With the dimensions of the ground it is important to be smart with your batting,” he explained.
“With one massive boundary it’s hard to try and hit it over the fence so it’s (about) how you manage that (problem).
“And then it’s about how you capitalise on the shorter straight boundaries and the other side of the ground with the shorter boundary.
“You have to think about your innings as opposed to just trying to wallop it!”
“I thought Leics put up a really good fight but we knuckled down well to get to 172 which was a pretty competitive score,” he added.
“And I’m grateful to be batting up top. There’s four of us who want to open. It’s a good time to bat but I thought Leics made it difficult for us in that powerplay.”
Chasing their target of 173, Inglis timed the ball nicely in an impressive innings of 34 from only 19 balls to get the Foxes off to a great start.
But the Leics overseas batsman was bowled attempting to reverse sweep Danny Lamb to give the Lightning a much needed breakthrough in the 5th over after the openers had made 47.
The arrival of spin put the break on the scoring with just 30 scored in the following six overs.
Matt Parkinson captured the wicket Lilley for 4 when the former Lancashire all-rounder holed out to Allen on the mid-wicket boundary to leave the visitors on 56-2.
Ackermann and opener Scott Steel added 30 for the third wicket to reach the halfway point of their innings requiring 97 runs to win before Ackermann was caught by Croft at long-on off Livingstone (1-29 off 4 overs) to depart for 18.
Hill swept Hartley (1-18 off four overs) to Luke Wood at deep square leg for 1 as Leics stumbled to 88-4 midway through the 13th over.
With 61 required off 30 balls, Rishi Patel, making his T20 debut, rallied the visitors with 32 off 17 balls but once he departed to a brilliant diving catch by Croft at long-on off Parkinson (2-30) at the end of the 18th over with 33 still needed from 13 balls, Lancashire were well in charge.
Steel reached his half century off 48 balls in the penultimate over but Lancashire’s spinners had left the Foxes with too much to do leaving Wood and Lamb to close out the game and seal a 16-run victory.
Photos: Barry Mitchell & Luke Adams