Lancashire Lightning lost a thrilling Pro40 League Division Two match against Warwickshire Bears at Old Trafford today, just failing to defend a below par 166.
A youthful Lightning side were bowled out in the 40th over as Steven Croft top-scored with 70 off 81 balls. Nobody else managed to better the 34 from wicketkeeper Gareth Cross, while there were six single figure scores.
But they fought hard in the field, taking wickets at crucial times and saving run after run, to take the match against the eventual Division 2 champions right down to the final ball of the match.
Left-arm spin twins Gary Keedy and Stephen Parry were key, taking three wickets between them to slow the Bears up in their chase, while Paul Horton took two fabulous catches at either end of the visiting side’s innings.
The second one was a juggling effort over his head at mid-wicket in the final over to give Tom Smith the key scalp of Jonathan Trott, who recorded a competition’s best of 86 off 122 balls.
Had Trott been caught by Horton at first slip on four off the final ball of the first over, Lancashire would surely not be reflecting on a three-wicket defeat.
Ten out of the eleven Red Rose players fielded by coach Peter Moores came through the club’s youth system, while 34 year-old Keedy (2-23 off eight overs) has been with the club for 15 seasons after moving from Yorkshire in 1995.
Oldham-born Luke Proctor, a left-handed opener on the club’s scholarship scheme, made his first team debut, but will have a scan on a suspected broken left thumb tomorrow after taking a blow during his innings of two.
“A loss is always slightly disappointing. We were definitely a few runs shy, but to take a strong Warwickshire side so close was encouraging,” said stand-in captain Mark Chilton.
“It was credit to the guys that we stuck in and didn’t just fall over, but it was disappointing that we came up short. We definitely knew we were under par, and the wicket was quite as good as we first thought.
“180, 190, 200 would have been a decent-ish score. I was pretty confident with the side we had going out there, I had faith that we had the players to get a decent score. I always knew we would compete in the field.”
Warwickshire were well in control at 135-4 in the 34th over, but lost three wickets to start the nerves jangling in their dressing room. Two of them came in Smith’s last over, Trott caught by Horton and Ant Botha run out. But ex-England all-rounder Rikki Clarke held his nerve to hit a single of the final ball.
Earlier, left-arm seamer Keith Barker led the way for the Edgbaston side with 3-23 runs from 5.5 overs, and Neil Carter, Botha and Steffan Piolet all took two apiece. England Lions bowler Chris Woakes returned an impressive 1-19 off eight.
Lancashire, who won the toss and elected to bat first, struggled to recover from 47-4. Croft and Cross at least tried as they shared a fifth wicket partnership of 63 in 13 overs.
“It was quite a mature innings from him (Croft) today. There were wickets falling around him, but he didn’t seem to lose his head at all,” added Chilton. “The total gave us half a chance."
Photo: Simon Pendrigh
(c) Lancashire CCC Ltd