Five wickets for Iain O'Brien sent Lancashire Lightning crashing to their first Twenty20 Cup defeat of the season, as Leicestershire Foxes grabbed a crucial North Division win in front of a packed crowd at Liverpool.
The 32 year-old New Zealand pace bowler, fresh from playing in the World Twenty20, reduced the Lightning from 27-0 in the third over to 58-4 in the seventh over as they attempted to chase down 147. He removed Paul Horton, Andrew Flintoff, Francois du Plessis, Steven Croft and Sajid Mahmood on the way to 5-23 from four overs. Lancashire were bowled out for 138, and lost by eight runs.
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Left-arm spinner Stephen Parry was the pick of Lancashire’s bowlers with 2-21 from four overs to put the brakes on Leicestershire’s effort of 146-5. James Allenby hit 69 off 45 balls opening the batting for the Foxes.
“These games are unpredictable,” said captain Glen Chapple, who can still reflect on six wins from seven in this format. “We had obviously won six out of six prior to tonight. It is disappointing for us because we got used to winning. We did some good things tonight, but we just came unstuck with the bat.
“It was a good wicket. We expected a higher score really. We were reasonably surprised by the Leicester total, although we bowled well.”
Leicestershire, who won the toss and elected to bat, were indebted to Allenby and Matt Boyce with their opening partnership of 66 that was only broken in the eighth over by Parry. Allenby hit Andrew Flintoff for two consecutive sixes at the start of his second over, the fifth of the innings, and it went for 17 in total. The Australian-born player also took three fours off Sajid Mahmood in the next.
Left-handed Boyce was the first Fox to depart in the eight, Parry’s first, when he flipped Parry to Paul Horton at deep mid-wicket for 20 off 22 balls. Allenby reached 50 for the fourth time in five innings, off 29 balls, by pulling Parry for six over mid-wicket in the tenth over. He also launched Francois du Plessis for a huge six over long-on in the next.
James Taylor was the second man to go in the 12th when he was well caught by Gary Keedy running in from long-on off the bowling of Chapple to leave the score at 96-2. This was when Leicester really hit the buffers.
Paul Nixon was run out by a combination of du Plessis and Mahmood in the next over, to reduce the score to 104-3, and Allenby was Parry’s second wicket in the 16th when he was caught behind by Gareth Cross to end his 45-ball stay at the crease.
Captain Chapple picked up his second wicket in the 18th when Boeta Dippenaar was caught behind by Cross. Jacques du Toit and Wayne White both finished unbeaten on ten.
Croft cracked six fours and six over mid-wicket off O’Brien on the way to an entertaining 40 off 25 balls as he opened the batting in place of the injured Tom Smith. Horton fell in the same over to a top edged pull, caught by Allenby at short mid-wicket, to leave the score at 27-1. Croft hit three fours off AJ Harris in the next over before Flintoff and du Plessis both went in the next to O’Brien. Flintoff went in a similar way to Horton, but caught at square-leg by Wayne White, and du Plessis was caught behind by Nixon.
Croft was next to go, caught by White off O’Brien to leave the score at 58-4 in the seventh before VVS Laxman (18) and Mark Chilton shared 34 for the sixth wicket. But Laxman, Gareth Cross and Chapple all departed in quick succession to leave Lancs in trouble again at 114-7 in the 16th over.
South African left-arm spinner Claude Henderson, a Twenty20 expert, got Cross and Chapple on the way to figures of 2-20 from four overs. O’Brien bowled Mahmood in the 19th to clinch the second best figures in the competition so far this year. It meant Lancashire needed 17 runs off the final over with Chilton and Stephen Parry at the crease.
Chilton hit the first ball from Harris over long on for six, but was caught by White at long-off off the next ball. Parry could not clear the ropes from then on in, and he was caught by O’Brien at long-on to end the match.
“Even though we thought it was slightly under par, seven an over plus is always going to be tough,” continued Chapple. “Crofty played some great shots. He will have been disappointed because he will have wanted to make a match winning contribution.”
Lancashire still need one more win to qualify for the quarter-finals, and travel to Derbyshire on Thursday evening.
Chapple added: “It would have been nice to have got that win tonight, so we could have made plans for the future. It was not to be. We will try to win one more of the next three.”
Photo: Simon Pendrigh
(c) Lancashire CCC Ltd