Lancashire comprehensively downed leaders Kent Spitfires by 25 runs on the Duckworth Lewis method, reaching 80-1 in the 18th over of their pursuit of 163 to win when rain ended proceedings.
Steven Mullaney will be ready for a break come tomorrow evening. It will certainly have been a busy three days for the Lancashire all-rounder.
Sandwiched in between winning the Liverpool Competition with his club side Bootle on Saturday afternoon and a Second XI Trophy semi-final against Sussex at Horsham tomorrow, the 22 year-old starred with three wickets to keep the Lightning in the hunt for the Pro40 League Division Two title at Old Trafford today.
Mullaney claimed figures of 3-36 from seven overs in only his second first team match of the season. He was helped out by two wickets each for left-arm spinners Stephen Parry and Gary Keedy, while Sajid Mahmood and Steven Croft also claimed a wicket apiece.
They were all vital parts of what was a brilliant Lancashire fielding display, one that ultimately put them just one point behind Kent with two games against Glamorgan and Warwickshire remaining.
“We set the tone very early with the new ball, and Mahmood started with the early wicket of Northeast,” said Mullaney, who also took two catches. “The fielding performance was fantastic.”
The second of Mullaney’s catches, to get rid of Azhar Mahmood off the bowling of Croft, was a fine running effort at long-on. Paul Horton later took an even better one to hand Mullaney his third wicket, sending back Justin Kemp with a stunning one-handed effort, diving to his left at deep mid-wicket.
Kent stand-in skipper Kemp top scored with 44, and Mullaney’s other two wickets were Alex Blake and James Goodman.
James Tredwell opened the batting for Kent, and struggled for 27 runs off 64 balls until he was put out of his misery when he top edged a sweep off left-arm spinner Parry (2-23 off eight) to Mal Loye at short fine-leg. That was the second of four wickets to fall in five overs as Kent slipped from 76-2 to 94-6 in the 26th.
Kemp later shared an eighth wicket partnership of 38 in five overs with Goodman before the former cracked Mullaney to a waiting Horton: “I thought it had gone for four to be honest,” said Mullaney. “He jumped up and threw the ball in the air. It’s up there with the best catches I have seen.”
Rob Ferley was run out by Horton with the last ball to bowl the visitors out. Keedy finished with 2-34 off eight.
Horton and Loye then gave the Lightning a steady start to their reply, reaching 44-0 off the first ten overs. With the first ten overs safely navigated, Loye attempted an ambitious switch hit off a Mahmood full toss but only picked up two runs.
Despite this Horton was the aggressor, and he reached his fourth score of 50 or more in one-day cricket this season, off 53 balls with nine fours.
The ninth was a sweep off Darren Stevens to reach the milestone, but he fell two balls later trying to repeat the stroke, and was caught by Kemp at short mid-wicket. It meant that Lancashire were 75-1 in the 15th over.
“We saw in their innings that they got a bit tied down at the start, so in our innings we looked to take advantage of the powerplay. They did it superbly, and there was some fantastic hitting,” continued Mullaney. “I was very pleased with how it went, and I was delighted to get the call last night. To put in a performance was pleasing,” he said.
Both Lancashire and Kent have two games to play, with Kent facing Warwickshire and Northants at Canterbury. Mullaney added: “If Kent slip up again, we are playing good enough cricket to win it.”
Photo: Simon Pendrigh
(c) Lancashire CCC Ltd