Liam Livingstone hit the fastest-ever fifty by a Lancashire batsman in T20 cricket off just 21 balls, and an inspired batting performance, backed up by a strong performance in the field by Lancashire Lightning, proved too good for the Yorkshire Vikings as the Red Rose blasted their way, hitting 11 sixes, to a 26 run victory in tonight’s NatWest T20 Blast Roses match.
Both teams made two changes from their previous T20 outings; Kyle Jarvis and the injured Alex Davies replaced by Liam Livingstone and Jordan Clark in the Lancashire side, while returning England pair Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow came into the Yorkshire side for Andy Hodd and James Wainman.
Lancashire made an explosive start, having been put in to bat, as thirteen runs arrived from the first over bowled by Root. The spinner was swept for four off his first ball by Martin Guptill and hammered for six over square leg by Alviro Petersen from the last.
Tim Bresnan and Steve Patterson quickly applied the brakes by taking a wicket apiece. Guptill fell for 13 after striking Bresnan high to mid-off where Vikings’ skipper Alex Lees took a great diving catch running back, while Petersen top edged a pull to Bairstow off Patterson to leave Lancashire on 31-2 in the 5th over.
Karl Brown and Livingstone responded positively with three boundaries to move the Lightning quickly along to 47-2 after the 6 powerplay overs.
Brown then pulled Will Rhodes twice for six to mid-wicket in the seventh over and struck a third maximum over long-on off Ben Coad while Livingstone produced a lovely ‘ramp’ shot off the same bowler for a four a couple of balls later, the pair reaching a 50 partnership that had only taken 28 balls and taken the attack back to Yorkshire.
Skipper Lees turned to Adil Rashid for the tenth over but Livingstone pulled the spinner for a huge six over square leg before hammering a short ball for four to mid-wicket as the Lightning reached the halfway stage well placed on 95-2.
It continued to rain sixes, as Brown and Livingstone both hit Rashid straight and over the ropes in the 12th over and Livingstone reached his fifty with a ferocious six over long-on off Liam Plunkett, in the process setting a new Lancashire T20 record for the fastest fifty off 21 balls with 5 fours and 4 sixes.
Livingstone hit the next ball for four before being caught by Coad at mid-off for 55 a ball later to end a brilliant 98-run partnership that had taken just 8.2 overs to put Lancashire in a strong position on 129-3 after four balls of the 12th over.
Jos Buttler hit England colleague Root for six, and ramped Plunkett for six more in the 15th over in a brief innings that lasted eleven balls but was worth 23 runs by the time the batsman/wicketkeeper hit Coad to Bresnan at long-off in the 16th over with the score on 160-4.
Brown reached his fifty from 36 balls but was the next man to go for 54 after cutting Patterson to Gary Ballance at backward point five balls later.
Jordan Clark and Steven Croft hit out to great effect over the closing overs adding 35 in 20 balls, Clark straight driving Coad for six in the 18th over before getting out in the last over for a hard-hitting 28 off 14 balls when his attempted flick to fine leg off Bresnan was caught by Bairstow.
Bresnan picked up a third wicket when Neil Wagner was caught by Root at deep mid-wicket from the last ball of the innings, Lancashire finishing with an imposing total of 204-7.
The start of the Yorkshire reply was just as quick as that enjoyed by the Red Rose earlier as Lees and David Willey plundered 29 off the first 17 deliveries.
Then two wickets in two balls rocked Yorkshire back; Lees caught at deep square leg by Arron Lilley for 16 and Willey caught on the drive at mid-off by Croft off Wagner for 10 to leave the Vikings on 29-2.
Root and Bairstow improved that to 50-2 after six overs, and then took 19 runs off two overs of spin from Lilley and Stephen Parry-who Bairstow somehow hit for a straight six from outside off stump-before Bairstow departed in contentious fashion for 18, the batsman appearing to dispute an outside edge off Lilley held by wicketkeeper Buttler.
It left Yorkshire on 69-3 after eight overs, which had become 85-3 by the halfway point, with 120 runs required, but some tight bowling from Parry, Lilley, Croft and Clark then restricted the visitors to 45 runs from the following six overs to turn the game decisively Lancashire’s way.
The White Rose suffered a double blow losing Gary Balance two balls into the 11th over when the left-handed batsman sliced a drive off Parry to be well caught by a diving Petersen at deep cover for 8. Bresnan then swung Lilley hard and high to deep backward point where Brown held on to a well judged catch to put the visitors in big trouble on 98-5 after 12 overs.
There was a moment of humour when Plunkett’s bat broke into two pieces after the Vikings’ all-rounder swung hard at a Croft delivery, and while Root reached his half century off 30 balls moments later, the Lancashire attack had proved difficult to get away with Yorkshire on 122-5 after 15 overs still requiring 83 from the remaining 30 balls.
It proved to be too much as Lancashire expertly closed out the game with few alarms, apart from a moment of concern when George Edwards pulled up with cramp.
The big fast bowler carried on after treatment to claim two more wickets and finish with 3-33. Needing 31 from the final over, Plunkett hit the first ball from Edwards high to Clark at extra cover for 22 and Rhodes flicked the third ball to Parry at short fine leg as Lancashire clinched victory by 26 runs, with Root finishing unbeaten on 92 but receiving little support.