Mitchell McClenaghan says his last couple of months have been a bit of dream.
That was added to with an impressive Lancashire debut as the Lightning got their Friends Life t20 campaign off to a stunning start with victory over Durham Dynamos at Emirates Durham.
The Lightning ruled the roost in the battle for the first two points of the North Division, and they also left the North East with the Fly Emirates Trophy, a piece of silverware put on offer from the sponsors of the two clubs.
Three-wicket star McClenaghan (3-35) and his new team-mates won by nine runs after posting 165-3 and defending 166 with a decent amount of breathing space, arguably more so than the final scoreboard suggests.
Earlier, opener Stephen Moore battled against a hip injury for 75 off 58 balls after being hit, while Simon Katich was excellent for 43 not out off just 25, including three sixes. A third-wicket stand of 68 in 7.1 overs between the pair was key in boosting Lancashire’s total.
Durham looked well off the pace in reply at 94-4 at the start of the 15th over, needing another 72 off six.
But some powerful hitting, led by a top-score of 34 from Ben Stokes, brought them 50 off the next four overs to leave the requirement at 22 off two overs and then 17 off the last.
After conceding 21 off his first two with the new ball, New Zealander McClenaghan returned with devastating effect - taking three wickets at a cost of 14 runs in the 17th and 19th overs of the innings.
After taking wickets galore for New Zealand in recent one-day internationals against England and at the Champions Trophy, he did exactly what he was signed for - to add extra firepower to the Lightning attack, especially at the death.
“It's been fantastic and a bit of a dream,” said the left-arm quick of his recent performances for the Black Caps. “I just want to continue to ride the wave whilst I can and continue to enjoy my cricket. Hopefully I can contribute to some good wins.
“It's good to be part of a team that's got such good momentum going forward, and it was good to get a win. We weren't expecting them to get off to such a good start because we thought the wicket would hold the ball up and it would be a little bit harder to score, but we pegged it back well.
“Chap bowled well at the top and took some crucial wickets before Paz and some of the other lads dragged it back well.”
As McClenaghan, aged 27, said, Glen Chapple and Stephen Parry should also take a lot of the credit for this victory because they really stifled the Dynamos after a racing start to their reply.
Durham openers Phil Mustard and Mark Stoneman, who hit 33, got their chase off to a flyer at 53-0 in the sixth over. Stoneman hit McClenaghan for three consecutive fours in his second over, the third of the innings.
But the game turned when Steven Croft ran out Stoneman with a direct hit at the non-striker’s end from point and Chapple had Mustard caught behind next ball, leaving the score at 53-2 in the sixth.
Chapple also had Scott Borthwick caught in the deep by Karl Brown shortly afterwards on the way to figures of 2-22 from four, and Durham’s early momentum had gone. With eight overs left, they were 81-3 needing another 85.
Parry later had former England Twenty20 captain, and current home skipper, Paul Collingwood lbw as the hosts scored only one boundary in 52 balls through the middle of their innings
Stokes instigated a swift repost, but it would have been a travesty had Lancashire lost. Thankfully McClenaghan and Ali, who bowled the last over, sealed the points.
“That's what I've been brought into this side to do, to finish off the innings well. I really enjoy that challenge as well,” McClenaghan added.
Lancashire, having lost the toss, reached 40-0 after the first six overs of powerplay and then 71-0 after 10.
Moore and Ashwell Prince shared 77 in 10.3 overs for the first wicket before the latter holed out to long-off off Ryan Pringle’s spin trying to repeat a six he had hit two balls earlier. His 32 had helped to build a platform.
Australian overseas left-hander Katich later swept two huge sixes off left-arm spinner Max Morley and also clipped seamer Mark Wood over mid-wicket.
Lancashire Lightning host Notts Outlaws under lights at Emirates Old Trafford on Monday (6.30pm start) Tickets
Photo: Stephen Moore hits out during his innings of 75 (c) Mike Egerton/EMPICS Sport