Lancashire sneak home in frantic finale against Northants
Lancashire maintained their unbeaten start and extended their unbeaten home run in the Vitality Blast to eleven games but by the barest of margins in another last ball thriller at Emirates Old Trafford.
Needing six runs off the last over bowled by Steelbacks’ New Zealand all-rounder Jimmy Neesham, just three runs (two singles and a wide) had been taken from first five balls but also with the loss of both Danny Lamb from the third delivery and Tim David, who had turned the game the Lightning’s way with an outstanding 42 off 26 balls, from the fifth.
That left Tom Hartley needing to hit three off the final ball but Neesham, whose four wickets looked to be taking Northants home, bowled a wide outside off stump and Hartley and Luke Wood also ran a bye to bring the scores level.
Neesham, upset and distracted by the wide call, then carelessly bowled a high full toss with the resulting no ball giving the Lightning a last-gasp two-wicket victory celebrated loudly by the 10,000-strong crowd.
It was a game where both sides had struggled for runs for the majority of the contest on a used and sometimes two-paced pitch, but it made for a dramatic and thrilling encounter.
Both teams had been forced into one change with Luke Wells replacing Matt Parkinson in the Lightning line-up after the latter was called up into the England team yesterday - Lancashire’s first team change in T20 this season.
Northants had an even later change with opening batter Chris Lynn – who had struck a century two days earlier – feeling unwell at the ground and replaced by debutant Alex Russell.
And the visitors appeared to suffer the loss of their Aussie overseas player more with an uneven batting display to reach 153-6 from their 20 overs after winning the toss as the Lancashire tactic of bowling mainly spin and taking pace off the ball worked well once again.
But initially it was sheer pace from Richard Gleeson that did for Lewis McManus, pushed up the order to open in Lynn’s absence, when he uprooted the batsman/wicketkeeper’s off stump for 6 with a perfect yorker in the third over.
Ben Curran and Josh Cobb added 42 in 4 overs with Cobb thumping consecutive sixes off Hartley in the 5th over but once he fell to a Liam Livingstone leg spinner in the 7th over - caught by David running in from long-on for 21 – and Curran was bowled for 37 by Wells after missing a reverse sweep in the next over, the Steelbacks’ innings stagnated.
Just three boundaries were struck between the 11th and 19th overs as the Lightning attack exerted a stranglehold that Saif Zaib and Rob Keogh struggled to cope with, Keogh eventually run out for 18 from 22 balls by a direct hit by Wells from mid-off leaving Northants 106-4 after 14 overs.
Neesham followed two overs later, playing back but bowled for 3 by a quicker ball from David, while Tom Taylor was castled by Wood for 1 attempting an ambitious reverse pull against the Lightning quick.
It took some good late hitting by Zaib, who finished unbeaten on 53, to take the Steelbacks to past the 150-mark as 24 runs came from the final two overs.
Lancashire suffered two early losses to Taylor with Keaton Jennings bowled for 2 and Steven Croft caught at point by Zaib for 10, but four boundaries by Phil Salt helped the Lightning end the powerplay on 46-2.
Livingstone top edged a sweep from off-spinner Russell that was caught by Taylor at square leg for 8 and when Salt was lbw to left arm spinner Graeme White for 37 from the last ball of the tenth over the Lightning were in a spot of trouble on 66-4 still needing 88 more.
David brought some momentum to the innings clubbing his first six in the 11th over off slow left-arm spinner Freddie Heldreich and followed with another that landed on the TV gantry at the Media Centre end in the next over from White.
It had been a quiet night so far for the ball-retrieval crew in the building site formerly occupied by the Red Rose Suite but David scrambled them into action with his third blast way over midwicket off Ben Sanderson in the 14th over to leave 50 required off 33 balls.
Vilas swung over Russell over midwicket for a six of his own as the pair brought up their 50 partnership off 29 balls but then fell for a 27-ball 32 when he was well caught on the midwicket boundary by White off Neesham in the 16th over with 35 needed off 26 balls.
Neesham then produced an excellent over that allowed just five runs and included the wicket of Wells caught by White at deep midwicket for 5 to leave the Lightning requiring 18 from the final two overs.
Lamb brought the crowd to its feet with an outrageous sweep-pull over square leg for six off Sanderson to bring the target down to a run a ball and make Lancashire favourites with an over to go.
We then had that crazy and frantic final over with all three results possible when the final delivery was bowled, but Lancashire just squeezed home – somehow – at the end.
“It was a close in the end,” admitted a happy Tim David. “It was an exciting one and we’re happy to get over the line.
“We’re thrilled with the result and we’ve had a great run of results (so far),” he added.
David conceded it had not been the easiest of nights for either side.
“The pitch was a used one and it brought the game a bit closer, “ he explained. “It made some skills harder – batting was difficult at times as we saw.
“Chasing that score was always going to be difficult. We had an okay start but lost a few wickets, it was tough to score in the middle (overs).
“For the position we were in we had to put our foot on the gas a little bit but to chase that down was an awesome team effort.”
While pleased with the win, David was a little frustrated not to have seen the game out.
“Obviously I wanted to be there at the end of the game and hit the winning runs,” he said.
“But I’m really pleased either way (that we won).
“I see my role here is to come and help the team win games so to have four wins out of our first five games is really pleasing.”
Photos: George Franks & Luke Adams