Lancashire produced a good, all-round, performance to win this opening Royal London One-Day Cup match against Warwickshire by the convincing margin of 42 runs.
Jos Buttler starred with bat in his first List A game for Lancashire making 91, and was well backed up by half centuries from Martin Guptill and Stephen Croft.
Then Lancashire’s bowlers combined to squeeze the life out of the Warwickshire reply over the second half of the Bears’ innings to enable the Red Rose to coast home in relative comfort during the closing overs.
Following two days of intense T20 action it was no surprise that Lancashire made several changes to their line-up with three other players, Martin Guptill, Saqib Mahmood and Nathan Buck, also making their Red Rose List A debuts alongside Buttler.
After Croft won the toss Guptill and Alviro Petersen made an excellent start with a partnership of 71 off the first 14 overs.
Guptill cut the third ball of the day from Rikki Clarke over point, while Petersen struck two fours off Oliver Hannon-Dalby in one over; an on-drive followed by a square cut over point with Petersen fallling over when playing the shot in a manner that recalled-probably for older readers-the great West Indies batsman Rohan Kanhai.
The opening pair moved the score along steadily to reach 39 without loss from the 10 over powerplay, with Guptill driving Rankin for 4 to bring up the Red Rose fifty in the 12th over. The New Zealander then greeted Josh Poysden’s introduction into the attack in the next over by pulling the spinner into the stands at mid-wicket for 6.
Petersen was quickly on to anything short, pulling Rankin hard for 4 over mid-on but, attempting to repeat the shot, top edged to Hannon-Dalby at deep mid-wicket off last ball of the 14th over to be out for 28.
Rankin collected a second wicket courtesy of a good catch by Laurie Evans after Karl Brown drove the fast bowler hard to cover to depart for 1 from the last ball of 16th over with Lancashire 72-2.
Guptill reached his half century off 56 balls but departed three balls later after driving Poysden to Will Porterfield at deep cover without adding to his score, the third wicket to fall in the space of five overs for just 18 runs.
Liam Livingstone and Jos Buttler responded positively with Buttler quickly into his stride with two early boundaries in a partnership of 30 gathered at a run-a-ball pace.
It was spin that did the trick again for Warwickshire as Livingstone fell to Jeetan Patel, hitting the spinner straight for four before driving the following delivery to Porterfield at short mid-wicket having made 21 off 27 balls to leave Lancashire on 118-4 after 24 overs.
Buttler continued to attack, hitting Poysden for a straight six that landed on the second tier of the Pavilion balcony in the 27th over, and the England batsman combined to produce a productive partnership of 122 runs with Croft during the following 18 overs, smashing the 51-year-old Lancashire 5th wicket partnership record of 70 against Warwickshire held by John Sullivan and Mike Beddow.
Croft pulled Hannon-Dalby for six from a free hit after the paceman had overstepped to take the Red Rose to 150-4 in the 29th over.
From there, Lancashire just about doubled their score over the remaining overs to put themselves in a strong position.
Buttler produced his trademark ramp shot to flick Clarke for 4 to bring up the 50 partnership with Croft off just 52 balls before steering the next ball to the fine leg boundary to bring up his own half century off 41 balls.
The pair had a big let-off in the 36th over with the score on 193-4 when a running mix-up left Buttler, on 59, stranded mid-wicket but a wayward throw from Evans granted a reprieve.
Buttler and Croft celebrated by taking 17 from the following over from Jonathan Trott and Buttler then outrageously ramped successive deliveries from Rankin to the vacant fine leg boundary.
In fact Buttler looked destined to score his first-ever county List A century after reverse sweeping Patel for 4 before he chopped a Hannon-Dalby delivery on to his stumps having made a fine 91.
That left Lancashire on 240-5 one ball into the 43rd over, and Croft expertly marshalled the strike during the remaining overs, reaching his fifty when sweeping Poysden for 4 in the 45th over and going on to make 67 before being caught at point by Poysden off Rankin in the last over.
By then contributions from Tom Smith, Steven Parry and Jordan Clark had helped push the final total to 296-8 with 71 runs arriving from the final 10 overs.
Sam Hain and Will Porterfield made the ideal start for the visitors with an opening partnership of 50 in 10 overs, but their alliance was broken by Smith with his second ball when Hain bottom-edged a loose shot behind to Buttler for 24.
Porterfield had played fluently in compiling 40 but was out to a great diving catch by Croft at mid-wicket from Parry’s fourth ball to leave the Bears on 85-2 in the 19th over.
Ian Bell joined Trott to add 89 runs in 16 overs, Bell getting off the mark by hitting his sixth delivery for 6. In the main, with the whole of the large outfield in use, it was good running that was largely responsible for the Warwickshire pair reaching their 50 partnership in even time, with just five boundaries struck.
The former England duo used all their experience to steadily close in on their target, reaching 149-2 after 30 overs leaving 148 required from the remaining 120 deliveries.
That the visitors never really got near that target, scoring only 105 from their final 20 overs was due to an excellent response from the Lancashire attack.
Parry took the headlines with three wickets, but there were excellent returns from Buck 2-53, Clark 1-43, Mahmood 0-51 and Smith 3-43 who combined to make run scoring difficult during the latter part of the afternoon.
The game itself changed dramatically in the 35th over when Parry returned at the Pavilion End and involved two pieces of inspirational fielding from Croft.
Trott, on 66, drove Parry towards cover where Croft took a great diving catch to his left and two overs later the skipper was at it again producing a nearly identical, if not better, dive to clutch onto another great catch in the same position off Parry to dismiss Evans for 1, leaving Warwickshire 176-4.
Despite the presence of Bell, Warwickshire never recovered the lost momentum and arrived at the end of the 40th over needing 106 from the remaining 60 balls.
Clark bowled Ambrose for 6 in the 42nd over, Bell departed caught and bowled by Buck for 73 at the start of 48th over, the last real hope for the visitors, and four wickets fell for 11 runs in the closing overs as Warwickshire subsided to finish on 251-9 and way short of their target.
“We haven’t started too well in the T20 so to start this competition with a win was great and hopefully we can build on this to get to the quarter-finals,” said Stephen Parry who returned the excellent figures of 3-43 from his ten overs.