Tom Smith continued his fine run of form with the bat in t20 cricket to guide Lancashire to an impressive North Division win over Leicestershire at Grace Road
Smith hit 543 runs from 17 matches last season, and started this year’s Friends Life t20 campaign with a valuable 33 in the opening night tie against Derbyshire on Thursday.
Chasing 174 here against the Foxes, Smith featured in an opening stand of 51 in 25 balls with Stephen Moore.
He went on to record a 30-ball fifty, the fifth of his career, and his 75 off 45 balls was the second highest of his career so far behind the 92 he scored against Worcestershire at Old Trafford last year.
Smith's innings led the Lightning to a five wicket win with eleven balls to spare as their record now reads two wins and a tie from their first three matches.
Half-centuries from openers Josh Cobb and Andrew McDonald, supplemented by a powerful 42 off 19 balls from Will Jefferson, had helped the home side to 173-2 after being invited to bat first by stand-in captain Steven Croft, who later impressed with the blade himself.
“It was good to get another win under our belts,” said Smith. “We knew looking at the pitch that it was going to be a pretty flat one. We always fancied our chances of chasing down that score. We thought they might have been 20 or 30 runs short when they finished their innings.
“I think we batted at ten runs per over for most of our innings. There was great intent from whoever came in.”
A breezy 40-ball 60, including four sixes all over long-on, from opener Cobb had put the visitors under early pressure.
He dominated an opening stand of 79 in ten overs with Australian all-rounder McDonald, who struggled to find his timing as he failed to find the boundary until the first ball of the 16th over.
Smith, Kyle Hogg and Stephen Parry were all the victims of Cobb maximums, while the right-hander found the fence three more times.
Having reached a maiden 20-over fifty off 33 balls, he was bowled by Gary Keedy with the last ball of the tenth over. Keedy and Parry then dragged things back somewhat, with only 32 runs coming off the next five overs.
The departure of highly-rated England Lions batsman James Taylor, who was caught at long-on off the bowling of Parry in the 15th, then proved to be advantageous to the home side, who won this competition in 2004 and 2006.
McDonald (54 not out off 49) hit two fours shortly after changing his bat, with Jefferson coming in and walloping four fours and two sixes.
McDonald, who hit 34 singles in his innings, was able to rotate the strike well. But, had Jefferson not come in and found the fence with regularity, this fixture would have been over before Songs of Praise.
Jefferson hit sixes off Kerrigan and Hogg, one a slog sweep and the other over long-on, but he was dropped on 24 by Kerrigan at deep mid-wicket with Smith the bowler in the 19th over.
Moore then raced out of the traps in reply, hitting four boundaries in 25 off 13 balls, including a fearsome cut off Harry Gurney in the second over and two successive fours off Henderson over long-off.
Croft also came in and played in a similarly aggressive fashion, taking successive boundaries off Gurney and two in three balls off Matthew Hoggard, his opposite number.
Meanwhile, Smith was still aggressive, but it was controlled aggression. In fact, it was the perfect lesson for McDonald as to how to anchor an innings.
He pulled Gurney for six and later lofted the off-spin of Cobb over long-off, by which time he had recorded his milestone.
He was bowled by Gurney with the victory line in sight, by which time Croft had perished to Henderson, caught at long-on, Paul Horton had been superbly caught by a diving Taylor at short-cover off the same bowler, and Cross holed out to Jefferson again off Hoggard.
Luke Procter hit the winnings runs at the start of the penultimate over, while Jordan Clark finished 13 not out off nine balls.
“To get to nine runs to win and get bowled, you always want to see the side home and get a little not out in there as well,” Smith added. “But a win’s a win.
The two teams meet again at Old Trafford on Wednesday evening (5.40pm start).
Photo (c) Simon Pendrigh
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