Lancashire gained revenge on Hampshire for their heart-breaking Twenty20 quarter-final defeat earlier this month with a thrilling five-run victory in tonight's Yorkshire Bank 40 Group B match at Emirates Old Trafford.
The Lightning won for the sixth time in a row to move within a point of the Group B leading Royals, who failed to chase down 262 when they needed 12 off the last over.
There were star performances with the bat for Karl Brown, who led the way with 66 off 63 balls, Steven Croft with 65 and Stephen Moore at the top of the order with 51. Arron Lilley and Kabir Ali then struck three times apiece in a nervy defence after the Lightning had posted a commanding 261-9 on a slow pitch.
Ali picked up all of his three wickets with full tosses, including two in the last over. Thankfully, Chris Wood failed to hit the last ball of the match for six, which would have secured a tie.
If Lancashire beat Essex here on Monday and Hampshire slip up at Derbyshire, the Lightning will reach the last four for the second year running. If Hampshire win, Lancashire have to rely on a win of their own and other results going their way to progress.
“We're ticking it off game by game, and hopefully one more on Monday,” said Croft, who saw Hampshire stay in touch with innings of note from Neil McKenzie and Sean Ervine, who shared 72 for the fourth wicket to advance the score from 128-3. McKenzie may 65 off 54 balls and Ervine 43 off 36.
“We were always quite confident. They sort of always stayed up around the rate. That partnership between Ervine and McKenzie, they batted well. I think deep down we knew we had a good chance, but the lads had to execute their skills well at the end.
“After that quarter-final, we definitely owed them one. To be in two competitions is massive for us. We want to try and get in that semi now.”
Moore got Lancashire, who won the toss off to a good start, but Dimitri Mascarenhas struck twice with the new ball as the hosts slipped to 127-4 in the 20th over. Sixteen-year-old off-spinner Brad Taylor also struck twice on his 40-over debut, including Moore caught behind and Simon Katich caught at mid-on.
Brown and Croft shared a crucial 95-run stand for the fifth wicket to tilt the balance back in Lancashire’s favour before Mascarenhas completed 5-42 from eight overs, his best figures in more than eleven years.
“We got off to a good start,” continued Croft. “We were around six with the run-rate when I joined Browny at the crease, but we'd lost four wickets. We tried to accumulate as many as we could and set a up for a bit of a slog towards the end with wickets in hand. We lost a few in clumps at the end, but we got a competitive score.”
Hampshire were always going to find it difficult to achieve their target given they were without Michael Carberry and James Vince due to England Lions duty. But they put up a spirited effort, which took the game right down to the wire.
They were always behind the rate in the face of some excellent bowling from Glen Chapple with the new ball and Lilley, who had Sean Terry stumped in the eleventh over and then McKenzie stumped and Liam Dawson caught behind with successive deliveries at the start of the 35th, leaving the score at 200-5.
Hampshire had needed 100 off the last ten overs with seven wickets in hand, but were only in with a great chance of winning at 22 off two with four wickets in hand and Adam Wheater and Mascarenhas striking the ball nicely.
Thankfully, Ali held his nerve in the last to get them both.
And on Monday’s clash with Essex, Croft added: “We'll be going into it in form. Mooresey said we haven't lost in this comp since May, so we're definitely high on form. Our Twenty20 form was good, and we're getting into some good habits. Hopefully one more and few results go our way.”
Picture of Karl Brown (c) Simon Pendrigh