Northants Steelbacks v Lancashire Lightning
Ryan McLaren’s T20 career-best 77 in 50 balls narrowly failed to see Lancashire home against Northamptonshire in an extraordinary NatWest T20 Blast game at Wantage Road that the home side won by 11 runs.
Left to recover an chase of 159 in tatters at 25 for 5, McLaren helped Lancashire stay alive and 26 were needed from the final over. McLaren hit the first two balls of the over for six beyond long-on but then holed out to mid-off as Lancashire’s hopes were finally extinguished.
Lancashire appeared to have no hope at all after suffering a nightmare start to their innings, all of their own making, slipping to 19 for 4. Liam Liverstone, having stepped away to Richard Gleeson’s second ball to carve a boundary over point, lost his middle and leg stumps next ball trying to play the same stroke.
Aaron Lilley played an almost identical innings and top-edged a wild hack that was well caught by Richard Levi running back from slip - but he was clattered by Gleeson running in from third man in the process. Levi was forced from the field but his replacement Tom Sole ran out Steven Croft with a direct hit from midwicket after being sent back by Dane Villas.
Before the run-out, Karl Brown drove loosely to edge a catch to wicketkeeper Adam Rossington, giving Rory Kleinveldt a second wicket - he took 2 for 2 in his first three overs. Gleeson also picked up a second wicket in his opening three overs - and the huge scalp of Jos Buttler. Having scooped a six over the fine-leg fence to get off the mark, Buttler attempted the same stroke next ball and was badly dropped by Saif Zaib at long leg. It mattered not, as Gleeson produced a beauty that nipped back to take out the off stump.
It all came in a crazy Powerplay where the required rate - which began at just under eight-an-over - soon climbed into double figures. But McLaren and Villas, who made 40 in 27 balls, plotted a recovery and despite only reaching the half-way mark at 54 for 5, began to get a foothold on the chase. The turning point was the 12th over bowled by Rob Keogh that went for 21 with two a six and a four each from both batsman. McLaren then heaved Zaib over midwicket to leave 49 to win from 30 balls.
Villas slapped Azharullah down the throat of long-on but the stand of 91 in 60 balls had revived Lancashire’s hopes. But Gleeson returned to york Jordan Clark second ball and Nathan Buck hit Stephen Parry’s off stump to leave McLaren having to win the game on his own.
Northants’ 158 for 4 appeared to be a below-par total. Levi led them their with 71 from 54 balls. He has delivered in each of his five innings since returning from concussion and his side were indebted to his effort here as they were largely well with their power game kept in check to great effect, Junaid Khan’s four overs cost only 21 runs and Matt Parkinson’s set 23.
Levi was forced to be very patient and passing fifty in 43 balls was slower than most innings from the South African. He snapped a run of just 11 runs in four over with a drive over extra-cover and lifted Stephen Parry over long-on. Parkinson’s one bad ball was pulled for six but not until the 16th over did he really fire.
Adam Rossington gave the innings a bright start with 29 in just 16 balls but when he fell, Ben Duckett collected his second duck in three innings and the Northants scoring rate subsequently slumped. Matthew Parkinson ran through four overs for just 23 and after 15 overs, Northants were 104 for 2 and the innings in need of impetus.
Levi found it with three fours in the 16th over and a no-ball smashed over midwicket. The over from McLaren conceded 25 and Alex Wakely found the committee balcony in the next and Rory Kleinveldt - after Levi was cleaned by a Clark slower-ball - lifted another six over midwicket but the late innings spurt didn’t come as only 11 runs came from the final two overs.