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Match Report

Croft's perfect day

It would be invidious to fault Lancashire's performance in their nine-wicket defeat of Notts Outlaws at Old Trafford on Sunday.

Comprehensive demolitions of both Warwickshire Bears and Derbyshire Falcons in recent weeks have now been followed by a similarly crushing display against a side that had lost just one match in the 2011 Friends Life t20.
 
The fact that heavy showers caused the game to be reduced to 15 overs-a-side and the absence of both Andre Adams and Luke Fletcher from the Outlaws line-up should be weighed in any analysis of the game but they cannot seriously lessen the impression that the Lightning are running into form at just the right time.
 
At the heart of  Lancashire effort was a controlled bowling and fielding performance which restricted Adam Voges's team to just 105 for five from their 15 overs, and then a dynamic, unbroken second-wicket stand of 97 between Tom Smith and Steven Croft which helped their side complete the win with nine balls to spare.
 
Did anything go wrong for Croft's men? Well, Riki Wessels revealed appropriately entrepreneurial invention in taking three boundaries off Junaid Khan's second over and Steven Moore later whacked Ben Phillips's slower ball straight to Scott Elstone at deep square leg.
 
Apart from that, diddly squat went amiss as Lightning coasted to a win which saw them move closer to that fourth qualifying place in the North Division table with games in hand on all their rivals.
 
"We're playing some really good cricket at the moment and the aim is to take that form into the quarter finals," said Smith. "We won't get a home tie now but in the form we're in at the moment, we're not bothered where we play.
 
"Given the cricket we're producing, we'll take on any team. To keep the momentum we have in t20 and take it into the County Championship game against Yorkshire would be great."
 
No doubt it would, but if Lancashire's spectacular batting caught the eye on Sunday, it needed a strong bowling performance to set up the victory opportunity.

Despite Glen Chapple being fit and ready to return, the heavy rain that delayed proceedings and subsequent damp conditions saw Lancashire err on the side of caution and stick with an unchanged line-up.
 
Nottinghamshire openers Tamim Iqbal and Alex Hales had begun well, scoring 41 runs in the five-over powerplay, but both batsman fell to left-arm spinners in consecutive overs.
 
Tamim was caught behind when he thin edged Gary Keedy to Gareth Cross, while Hales lofted Stephen Parry straight to long-on Sajid Mahmood. The slow bowlers then maintained their grip on the Outlaws batsmen. Keedy removed Samit Patel, well caught by long-off Farveez Maharoof, for ten and returned typically fine figures of  two for 14 from his three overs.
 

Parry finished with one for 16 from his allocation and Nottinghamshire's fourth-wicket pair Riki Wessels and Adam Voges relied mainly on singles to reached an indifferent 77 for three after 12 overs.
 
Wessels supplied some much needed acceleration when he milked Khan's second over for 16 runs and it was that spurt which helped the ex-Northants batsman added 32 in exactly four overs with his t20 skipper  
 
But an outstanding diving catch at mid-off by Maharoof off Mahmood removed the South African for 19 and Khan castled top-scorer Voges for a boundary-free 29 in the last over as the Outlaws finished on a moderate 105 for five. Maharoof finished with nought for 22 from his three overs and Mahmood, one for 23.
                 
Stephen Moore's dismissal may have sowed a measure of doubt in some dressing rooms but Lancashire are a strong group at the moment. Croft and Smith  dominated proceedings, putting on 50 runs in only 40 balls.
 
Both Outlaws spinners  Patel and Graeme White came in for rough treatment, the England international being reverse swept for four by Smith, and White being hoisted over midwicket for six by Croft.
 
Lancashire's stand-in skipper then handed out similar treatment to Patel and reached his half-century off 33 balls. Smith was not far behind his partner in demolishing the Notts attack, hitting three fours, and also a six off former colleague Steven Mullaney in hs 38-ball innings.
 
Darren Pattinson conceded only 16 from his three overs and was the pick of the visitors' attack. For his part, Smith ended the afternoon on 45 not out while Croft collected his third consecutive t20 half century, making an unbeaten 53 off 39 balls with three fours and two sixes.

Since he is a finely-honed athlete, Man of the Match Croft probably does not drink sangria - but this was his perfect day.

Paul Edwards
Photos (c) Simon Pendrigh
Article is copyright of Lancashire CCC and must not be reproduced without permission


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