Lancs clinch thrilling last over win against the Bears
Lancashire clinched a thrilling two-wicket victory against Birmingham Bears in an extraordinary finish to the Vitality Blast group campaign.
The result means the Lightning will face Essex Eagles at Emirates Old Trafford in the quarter-finals next Friday, the fifteenth time the Lightning have progressed from the group stages in 20 seasons of T20 cricket.
The win extended Lancashire’s T20 unbeaten home record to 14 matches after a dramatic finale that saw 13 required off the final over bowled by Henry Brookes.
Tom Hartley, who contributed 19 runs off 9 balls, pulled the first ball over deep square leg for six before Danny Lamb perished to a catch by Olly Stone at deep mid-wicket for 8.
That meant six runs were required from three balls but after Richard Gleeson edged his first delivery to the vacant third man boundary for four, Brookes was penalised for a delivery that was over waist height with the two runs for the no ball clinching victory for the Lightning.
The close game between the sides that finished first and second in the North Group meant fortunes fluctuated throughout the evening.
Lancashire made a faltering start in their quest for a target of 169 losing Keaton Jennings and Steven Croft within three deliveries in the 3rd over bowled by Stone to fall to 18-2.
But Phil Salt and Dane Vilas rallied the Lightning cause with some attacking play that added 67 runs in 7 overs.
Vilas brought up the Lancashire fifty at the start of the 7th over with a swept six off Danny Briggs and he then plundered three boundaries off Jake Lintott in the next.
The Lightning skipper was going really well at this point but fell lbw to Briggs for 42 off 21 balls while Salt swiftly followed after being caught at long-on by Adam Hose off Stone for 33 off 28.
That left Lancashire on 89-4 one ball into the 11th over but Luke Wells and Tim David kept the momentum of the innings going by taking 13 off the 12th over bowled by Lintott.
David holed out to off Lintott to make the score 111-4 in the 14th over and, after smashing consecutive fours off Carlos Brathwaite, Wells fell for 26 off 24 balls in the 16th when caught by Dan Mousley at deep third man off the next delivery.
Stone picked up his fourth wicket, and a career best, when Luke Wood was lbw to a yorker for 6 at the end of the 17th over with the Lightning 141-7 and still needing 28 off the final three overs.
That looked to be a challenging task but Lamb and Hartley hit out, Hartley crucially swinging Brathwaite for six over long leg midway through the 19th over to keep the Lightning in the hunt.
Thirteen off the last looked tough but the Lightning lower order proved to be up to the task.
At the start of the evening Birmingham were rocked by the loss of three early wickets in the face of some excellent Lightning bowling after they had opted to bat first.
Gleeson struck with his first ball, Alex Davies edging to Jennings at slip at the start of the second over, while Hartley claimed two wickets in three balls in the fourth.
Sam Hain, having driven Lamb for six over extra cover, skied a catch to Vilas at mid-off off the left arm spinner and Paul Stirling top edged to Gleeson at fly slip to leave the visitors on 28-3.
Adam Hose and Chris Benjamin rallied the Bears with a partnership of 63 to initially steer Birmingham to 73-3 after ten overs during which just 7 boundaries had been struck.
Hose added an eighth with a six over extra cover off Matt Parkinson but then lost his partner when Benjamin dragged a Wells delivery onto his stumps after making 35 with the Bears 91-4 at the start of the 13th over.
Another significant partnership of 59 from 32 balls between Hose and Dan Mousley built on that recovery to steer the Bears to the 150 mark in the 17th over.
Mousley had pulled Wood for consecutive sixes in the 16th over and then deposited Wells into the building site at deep square leg before being bowled the off spinner for a rapid 41 off just 20 balls.
Brathwaite holed out to Vilas at deep cover point off Gleeson (2 for 23) for 6 in the penultimate over and Hose, having held the innings together with 50 off 39 balls, was one of two run outs in the 20th over in the scramble for late runs with Birmingham posting 168-8.
Dane Vilas was naturally delighted to have clinched a home quarter-final after tonight’s thrilling win.
“The crowd tonight were great and gave us great support. It’s so good to hear the cheer of Lanky, Lanky, going up! It gives you a real pump to hear it.”
And looking back at the group campaign Vilas added:
“We started like a house on fire and dominated games.
“Importantly we’ve kept the right environment in the changing room even when we’ve had losses.
“The good thing to see in those losses, bar one or two, they have been very tight games. We’ve played good cricket but sometimes just haven’t got over the line.
“Similar to a game like tonight’s, when we get over the line in a tight game, that’s good for us. It’s so important we just play the right sort of cricket.”
Looking ahead to Friday’s match against Essex, where Lancashire will lose player’s away on England duty, Vilas said:
“It’s always difficult when you have to rejig your side but we’ve been in this situation before and we know what’s coming.
“We’ve got guys who want to come in and it will be an opportunity for them.
“We thought about picking the players who’ll be playing in the quarter-finals but we wanted to make certain we got a home quarter-final and we’ve done that.”
Photos: George Franks