Lightning tame Rapids with convincing Blast victory
Two T20 career-bests by Rob Jones and Tom Hartley, along with a Lancashire best bowling return by Saqib Mahmood, took the Lightning to a convincing 34-run victory at Emirates Old Trafford that revived their Vitality Blast ambitions.
After Jones had rescued the hosts’ innings with some late hitting on his way to an unbeaten 49 from 33 balls to steer Lancashire to 159-6, Hartley struck in the 6th, 10th and 14th overs to end any hopes the Rapids had harboured in reaching their increasingly distant target with an outstanding return of 4-16.
Tom Hartley had a night to remember after producing his career-best figures in T20 cricket.
“It was one of the best,” he said.
“We bowled well, the power play was excellent for us and we restricted them all the way through.
“We saw the way they bowled (to restrict the scoring) and felt we could do better.
“We know the dimensions, we know the pitch and I think we have a lot of confidence playing here.
“And when the fans get behind us, it picks us up as well.
Hartley bounced back quickly after his first delivery didn’t quite go as planned.
“I was a lot happier after that first ball (a leg side wide that went for four),” he grinned.
“To get a few wickets and to be on for a hat-trick was good.”
The win takes Lancashire into fifth position in the North Group table, one point behind Birmingham Bears and Durham with four games to play.
The Lightning travel to Headingley tomorrow (Friday) to face second-placed Yorkshire Vikings.
“It feels a bit weird with crowds after having none last year,” admitted Hartley. “And you get a bit more chat from them when you play away!”
“So to have them behind you chanting your name – its boss!” he laughed.
Looking ahead to tomorrow at Headingley he added: “I know we will cop a bit there,” he said.
“I’m sure it’ll be a tough crowd and it’ll be my first game there with a crowd in, so I’m looking forward to it.”
The Rapids suffered early setbacks in the quest to reach their 160-run target after Mahmood struck in his first over when the in-form Brett D’Oliveira drove to Luke Wells who took a great catch down by his ankles at extra cover.
And the pace bowler was soon celebrating a second wicket when Jake Libby chipped to Keaton Jennings at extra cover for 10.
Hartley bowled Daryl Mitchell for 5 to leave the Rapids on 36-3 in the 6th over before returning to take two decisive wickets in two balls at the start of the 10th over; Riki Wessels caught and bowled for 27 and Ross Whiteley lbw first ball leaving Worcestershire in disarray on 59-5.
Ed Barnard became Hartley’s fourth wicket when he swept to Finn Allen at deep mid-wicket giving the left-arm spinner the third-best T20 bowling figures by a Lancashire spin bowler, behind Stephen Parry’s 5-13 against Worcestershire in 2016 and Gary Keedy’s 4-15 against Derbyshire in 2008.
There was no way back from 81-6 for Worcestershire.
Ben Cox struck a defiant six but was bowled by Matt Parkinson next ball, 106-7, Ben Dwarshuis drove Wells to Jennings at cover for 15 and Mahmood (4-25) bowled Ish Sodhi (14) and Charlie Morris with consecutive deliveries to seal an impressive victory in the 19th over with the Rapids all out for 125.
The win puts Lancashire back in T20 contention and Hartley said:
“The group is quite tight and we might have to win the rest of our games, depending on other results, so it’s a big game tomorrow and we are looking to go on a roll.”
The Lancashire innings had an explosive start and an explosive finish as the Lightning posted 159-6 off their 20 overs after Dane Vilas won the toss.
In true T20 style both Jennings and Allen batted aggressively and lived dangerously in the opening overs, the pair hammering 54 runs off the 6 over powerplay.
Jennings had a lucky escape on 2 when Bernard missed a catch on the square leg boundary after losing the ball in the evening sun. Instead the Lightning opener found he had hit the first six of the match!
Then Allen drove Dwarshuis for a straight six before top edging the bowler to mid-off with the ball dropping just in-between two Rapids’ fielders.
Undeterred Allen next struck three consecutive fours off Dillon Pennington at the start of the 6th over to bring up the 50 partnership off 34 balls before getting a leading edge off a slower delivery that ballooned up to Sodhi at mid-off to depart for 25 off 18 balls.
Davies greeted Sodhi’s introduction into the attack immediately after the powerplay with a slog sweep that soared over mid-on for six.
But three wickets fell for 10 runs in 3 overs once Jennings pulled hard at Sodhi but found D’Oliveira on the midwicket fence to depart for 34. Davies cut Morris to Sohi at short third man for 15 and Vilas top edged a pull that was caught by Sohi running round behind the wicketkeeper off Pennington for 3 as Lancashire stumbled to 85-4 after one ball of the 12th over.
Sodhi, who took 1-24 from his 4 overs, combined effectively with Barnard and Mitchell to stifle the Lancashire innings and when Croft pulled the last ball of the 15th over from Barnard to the mid-wicket it was first boundary scored in 7.3 overs.
But Jones stepped up the scoring by hitting consecutive boundaries off Dwarshuis who then had Croft caught behind for 18 and Wells taken by Morris at long-on in the same 17th over to leave Lancashire on 122-6.
That looked to be a below par score but Jones and Wood came together to launch a ferocious three-over assault that brought 37 runs and revived the Lightning innings.
Jones drove Dwarshuis for six over long on and flicked Morris to fine leg for 4 on his way to a T20 best of 49 not out off 33 balls while Wood contributed an unbeaten 10 that included a six thumped over midwicket.
And that final burst of runs proved to be more than enough.
Photos: Barry Mitchell & Luke Adams