Lancashire suffered a night to forget as they fell to an 83-run defeat at the hands of Durham in the Friends Life t20 competition at the Riverside
After being invited to bat first by Steven Croft, home skipper Dale Benkenstein top-scored with a career best 60 off 34 balls as the hosts posted a daunting 200-6, also boosted by 36 off 26 balls from Phil Mustard and 27 off ten balls from Liam Plunkett.
Farveez Maharoof, Stephen Parry and Jimmy Anderson all took two wickets for the Lightning.
Plunkett then steamed in to record 5-31 – a career best for him as well – to bowl Lancashire out for just 117 in 17 overs.
It was Lancashire’s fourth North Division defeat from nine matches, and they have dropped out of the top four places as a result ahead of Sunday’s trip to Trent Bridge to face leaders Nottinghamshire.
“That was our first Twenty20 where we’ve been out-played,” said captain Croft.
“We’ve lost three others apart from this, and they’ve all gone down to the last over. We could have won each one of them, but we were out-played here.
“It was one of those games where nothing seemed to go right for us.”
Openers Stephen Moore and Tom Smith made a racing start to Lancashire’s chase, putting on 35 inside three overs.
Moore dominated, hitting four boundaries in 20 off eleven balls. He had been caught at third-man off a Plunkett no-ball on 14, but fell moments later when he skied the same bowler to Chris Rushworth at mid-on.
He was the first of four wickets to fall for just five runs in 12 balls to completely shatter Lancashire’s chances of winning.
Karl Brown edged Plunkett behind before Croft slapped the same bowler to point, Gareth Cross holed out to short mid-wicket and Jordon Clark chipped him to cover as he finished with a maiden five-for.
Maharoof top-scored with 27, while Luke Procter finished 23 not out. But the off-spin of Gareth Breese accounted for 3-23 from his four overs.
Although four-day captain and wicketkeeper Mustard had earlier helped to get the hosts off to a flyer with the willow, it was Benkenstein who underpinned their innings with an attacking, yet composed, knock.
The former South African one-day international scored a century in the recent Championship match between the two sides here, and was a thorn in Red Rose sides again.
Anderson had Gordon Muchall caught at deep backward square-leg by Smith with his first ball, the seventh ball of the contest.
But Ian Blackwell pulled him for a huge six towards the end of the over, while Mustard cleared the ropes once as Durham went at just over ten runs an over for the first four.
Maharoof then got rid of the ex-Somerset left-hander with a short slower ball that was caught by Croft at point, leaving the score at 44-2 in the fifth.
Mustard has been in good form in this competition, and he also found the fence twice.
But, having also seen South African overseas left-hander David Miller chip one straight back to Parry for 21, he lofted the same bowler to Procter, who took a smart catch running around the deep mid-wicket fence. That left the score at 103-4 after 12.
But Benkenstein took on the responsibility of building the total further.
He hit Gary Keedy for six over mid-wicket and Procter, who took the new ball, over long-off, while also hitting six fours.
Having reached fifty off 29 balls, he pulled Anderson down Smith’s throat at deep backward square-leg. With two left, Durham, who had also lost Breese bowled by Maharoof, were 166-6.
Plunkett then ensured his side reached 200 for only the third time with three fours and two sixes in the last over of the innings that went for 25, bowled by Anderson.
Croft added that he and his team-mates are targeting another three or four wins from their last seven matches in order to qualify for the quarter-finals.