Lancashire ease to convincing Blast win against Northants
A century opening partnership between Finn Allen and Keaton Jennings backed up a superb bowling effort as Lancashire coasted to an eight-wicket Vitality Blast victory against Northants Steelbacks.
The win takes the Lightning up to fourth in the group table with two matches remaining, both at Emirates Old Trafford next week against Durham and Yorkshire.
Chasing a target of 143, Allen blasted three sixes and seven fours in an exhilarating innings of 66 off 37 balls, his third T20 half century of the season, with all three maximums memorable moments.
Lancashire’s overseas batsman received great support from Keaton Jennings-who finished unbeaten on 54-as the Lightning maintained their unbeaten home record this season and have qualification for the Blast quarter-finals in their own hands.
The first of Allen’s sixes, smashed off Wayne Parnell in the 3rd over, nearly took out a startled ‘Lanky’ the Lightning mascot at the long-on boundary; the second screamed-with one bounce-into the pavilion windows (which happily stayed intact) and brought up the 50 partnership from just 33 balls, while the third landed on the top tier of the stand at the Statham end and also broke the Lightning first wicket T20 partnership record of 78 against Northants set by Stephen Moore and Karl Brown in 2011.
The Steelbacks bowlers found little respite as 56 runs were taken from the powerplay, with the Lancashire opening pair moving on quickly to reach 93-0 after 10 overs.
Allen was in imperious form, driving forcefully off the front foot while cutting and pulling hard at anything short and when he did finally depart after clipping Mohammad Nabi to Josh Cobb at mid-wicket for 66 in the 12th over, the game was already in the bag with Lancashire on 112-1 and just 31 runs away from their target.
Jennings went to his fifty from 38 balls at the end of the 14th over before Alex Davies was caught on the long-on boundary for 7 attempting to wallop Freddie Heldreich for six in the 15th.
Dane Vilas ended proceedings with a six off Graeme White eight balls later to seal an emphatic victory with 26 balls to spare.
A fine bowling display by Lancashire, who brought in Liam Hurt and Danny Lamb to replace Matt Parkinson and Saqib Mahmood away on England duty, had laid the foundations for the victory.
Steelbacks captain Josh Cobb had won the toss and opted to bat. But the visitors lost early wickets to run into early trouble.
Ben Curran holed out for 1 to Davies at long-off from the fifth ball of the match bowled by Steven Croft.
Croft then took a well-judged catch running in from the midwicket boundary to dismiss Ricardo Vasconcelos for 3 off left arm spinner Tom Hartley in the following over.
Cobb was the third Steelback to depart inside the powerplay, pulling Hurt to Danny Lamb at backward square leg after making a quick-fire 20 with Northants 36-3 after 5 overs.
The Lightning kept a tight hold on the scoring across the first half of the innings, with just four boundaries struck as Northants reached the 10-over mark struggling on 67-3.
When Mohammad Nabi launched a six over long-off in the 12th over it was the first boundary struck since the sixth.
But Nabi and Rob Keogh steadily rebuilt the innings with a partnership of 60 in 50 balls through the middle of the innings.
Lamb made a crucial breakthrough by trapping Nabi lbw for 27 at the start of the 14th over with Northants 96-4.
Keogh pulled Luke Wells for six on his way to a 42-ball half-century with 50 runs added between overs 10 and 15 as the visitors looked to accelerate.
But the Steelbacks efforts to push on from that point were hampered by the loss of further wickets.
Saif Zaib made 11 before falling to a well-judged catch at fine leg by Hartley off Luke Wood in the 18th over.
Keogh departed in the 19th over after reaching 56, hitting Hurt high to Davies at mid-wicket.
The Lightning paceman made it two wickets in two balls, and a T20 best of 3-22, when Parnell also found Davies in the deep.
White was well caught by Wells in the final over with Northants closing on 142-9 having added just 26 from the final five overs.
None of the bowlers conceded more than 30 runs in a fine effort from the Lightning attack.
“It was nice to win a crucial game and win it comfortably,” said Finn Allen.
“I think we bowled pretty well to keep them to that score. We bowled well throughout the whole innings.
“It gave us a little bit of momentum and we carried ourselves pretty well in the chase and Keats carrying his bat was awesome.
“Me and Keats knew the powerplay was going to be crucial for us. We needed to make the most of that and I thought we did quite well.
“We still took our time a little bit to get a feel for the wicket. I think we set it up quite well for Alex and Dane to come in and finish it off with Keats.”
After one or two low scores Allen admitted it was good to have contributed some runs.
“It’s been a little bit frustrating lately,” he said. “I feel like I’ve been preparing well and doing all the right things but it just hasn’t been quite clicking.
“So to get a little bit of personal success with a victory like that was nice.
“It can be a fickle game, especially with the way I try and play,” he added.
“I try and take an aggressive sort of approach and you live by the sword and die by the sword I guess.
“It was nice that it came off (today) when it needed to happen.”
And Allen is looking forward to next week’s games.
“We back ourselves at home,” he said. It will be two pretty exciting games here next week.
“It’s a good position to be in and we have nothing to lose.
“We know that we have to win two games to guarantee ourselves a place in the quarter-finals and we certainly back ourselves to do it.”