Lancashire lose out in extraordinary tied game
Lancashire’s interest in the Royal London Cup was ended in a sensational finish and by the smallest of margins as the final group game with Essex ended as a tie.
With the visitors, already assured of a home tie in the quarter-finals, needing 22 to win off the final over, Simon Harmer smashed three consecutive sixes off Steven Croft before getting two runs from the final delivery to tie the game with Essex 250-8 in reply to Lancashire’s 250-6.
It wasn’t a defeat but it felt like it with the one point from the match not enough for Lancashire to qualify for the knock-outs after finishng the campaign with nine points from 8 games and a points average of 1.12 but inferior to Gloucestershire’s point average of 1.14 (8 points from 7 games) after their earlier win against Kent today proved to be enough for the third and final qualification place in the group.
“Gutted, at the minute,” was Assistant Head Coach Mark Chilton’s reaction. “It’s a combination of raw emotion and huge disappointment.
“Getting to the position we got to, ten overs out I didn’t necessarily see that coming.
“But once you get into that position going into the last over you generally close out the game maybe 49 out of 50 times. I thought I’d seen it all, but obviously I haven’t.”
“As a head coach of a team, I’m keen to give responsibility and accountability to the players," he added. "I think for the most part they’ve responded really well to that during this campaign."
“You can say we should have done this and could have done that, but we do that ourselves anyway. Sometimes you have to acknowledge either that we didn’t execute in the last over or we got it wrong. And you learn from it.
“Once you need 22 off the last over you close that out with your death bowler. But you could have easily said that about the 49th over as well and that was actually a really effective over for us.
“If the batter hits it down mid-on’s throat (Harmer's third six was very nearly caught) it’s a different story. And Crofty and Wells had got us into that position (to win it). Bails (Tom Bailey) had been brave bowling them in the final ten overs.
“You can analyise that all you like but we will learn from it.
“We got the worst of the conditions with the wicket difficult in the first twenty overs. And Crofty batted superbly well with a couple of the young lads. Without his innings we weren’t going to post a competitive total and he’s up there in the dressing room crushed because of what happened at the end.
“To show the fight we did, stay in the game for as long as we did and to take it down to the last over was a testament to the unit. I’m really proud of how they’ve played as a team through this tournament.
“It’s been enjoyable to watch and there’s been some growth in both the team and some individuals and that’s important.”
The astonishing finale came about after a super century from Sir Alastair Cook, on possibly his final match at Emirates Old Trafford, had underpinned the visitor’s innings efforts to chase 251.
Essex were made to work hard for their runs with Bailey rewarded for a fine six-over opening spell of 1-13 with the wicket of Josh Rymell, caught at slip, for 18.
And Jack Morley trapped leading run-scorer Tom Westley lbw for 19 before Feroze Khushi was run out by a smart piece of fielding from Josh Bohannon after hesitating over a quick single to leave Essex 99-3 in 23rd over.
When Taylor Cornall took a sensational one-handed catch at mid-wicket to dismiss Paul Walter for 10 off the bowling of George Balderson the game was very much in the balance at 123-4 after 29 overs.
Cook finally found good support from Ryan ten Doeschate in a partnership of 113 in 15 overs to steer Essex to what appeared to be a straightforward task of scoring 40 runs from 34 balls.
But after Morley’s excellent ten over spell of 1-37 ended, Bailey turned to the spin of Croft and Wells over the closing overs and the pair turned the game Lancashire’s way with Croft catching ten Doeschate’s top edged sweep off Wells at deep square leg for 45.
Croft then prised out Cook for 110 off 128 balls when the former England captain sliced a catch off to Cornall running in from point.
Wheater skied the next ball from Croft to Wells at long-off for 5 leaving 25 required off 2 overs and Aron Nijjar then hit Wells (2-33) to Liam Hurt at long-on for a duck with Essex needing 22 off the last that Jack Plom reduced by a single to make it 21 off four balls.
Harmer’s fireworks produced 20 runs to tie the game but leave Lancashire shattered-and out.
It was an incredibly harsh on Croft in particular whose fine 93 aided by George Lavelle’s maiden one-day half-century had rescued Lancashire from a slow start to their innings in difficult conditions after being put in to bat.
The Red Rose batsmen found the early going tough against some accurate bowling from the Essex attack with just 25 runs taken from the opening ten-over powerplay.
Wells was bowled by a sharply turning delivery from the excellent Harmer for 26 to break the opening partnership at 49 with Bohannon and Croft advancing the score along to 91 by the 27th over before Bohannon chipped a ten Doeschate full toss to Harmer at mid-on for 34.
Croft took over from that point, despite losing Rob Jones for 3, smashing ten Doeschate for six and getting excellent support from Lavelle during the second phase of the innings with Lancashire doubling their score from a position of 124-3 after 35 overs.
The 21 year-old wicketkeeper responded in fine fashion after being pushed up the order with a scintillating 49-ball innings of 52 that included three sixes, one of which ended up on the pavilion balcony, and two fours.
The pair reached their fifty partnership from 58 balls and took just 33 more to take their alliance to 100 when Croft cut pace bowler Ben Allison for four in 44th over.
Lavelle eventually holed out to Walter on the square leg boundary off left-arm spinner Nijjar in the following over while Croft fell for 93 in the penultimate over when hitting Nijjar to Allison at long-on, having struck two sixes and five fours in a well-controlled innings.
Danny Lamb added a very useful cameo of 25 off 13 balls in the closing overs to steer Lancashire to a competitive 250-6 which looked like it might be enough to win the game until Harmer stepped up at the end.
Photos: Barry Mitchell