A magnificent innings of 92 not out by Tom Smith followed by a disciplined bowling and fielding performance ensured that Lancashire Lightning recovered from a dreadful start to beat Worcestershire Royals by 46 runs in Monday's Friends Provident t20 match at Old Trafford.
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Lancashire had lost Stephen Moore and Steven Croft before they had a run on the board, but Smith hit five fours and six sixes to help Lancashire reach 170-5 in their twenty-over allocation. In reply, Worcestershire could muster only 124 all out in 18.4 overs to leave Lancashire the victors by 46 runs. The result leaves the Lightning well-placed to qualify for the quarter-finals ahead of Friday's t20 Roses Match against Yorkshire.
Such a outcome had seemed unlikely after four balls of the match. Moore completely miscued an attempted pull off Jack Shantry's first ball of the game to give Phil Jaques an easy catch at midwicket and Croft carved the same bowler to short third man Matt Mason three balls later.
Smith, though, remained in impressive control throughout the remainder of the innings and recorded his highest score in cricket's most abbreviated format. It also made him the highest run-getter in the North Division of the Friends Provident t20 and the third heaviest scorer in the country.
Smith dominated Lancashire's innings, making good use of the short leg-side boundary for a quartet of sixes, but also hitting James Cameron for a titanic six over long-on and inflicting similar treatement on the ex-Sri Lankan captain Sanath Jayasuriya.
The 24-year-old all rounder shared partnerships of 67 for the third wicket with Paul Horton (22) in 9.4 overs and 80 in just 7.3 overs with Mark Chilton, who contributed 34 off 24 balls.
Both of Smith's batting partners made key contributions to Lancashire's effort: Horton helped the left-hander rebuild the innings after the disastrous start; Chilton hit a couple of sweet boundaries and his running between the wickets ensured that the scorboard kept ticking over when Smith wasn't scattering the spectators in the pavilion.
The most successful Worcestershire bowler was Adam Shantry, who took two for 32 but Daryl Mitchell also bowled well to take one for 23 and Jayasuriya's four overs, all of them delivered from the Brian Statham End, went for "only" 38.
Worcestershire's reply got off to a superb start when the ex-Lancashire batsman Sanath Jayasuriya deposited Glen Chapple's first two deliveries into the pavilion and the Sri Lankan had added 30 for the first wicket with Phil Jaques in just 3.1 overs when the Australian holed out at mid-off for six, Chapple taking the catch off Nathan McCullum.
While Jayasuriya remained, however, Lancashire were not safe. The Worcestershire opener reached his fifty off 26 balls with four fours and four sixes and the relief was almost palpable when he top edged a pull off Stephen Parry and was caught by Simon Kerrigan for 54 to leave Worcestershire on 73 for two after 8.4 overs.
Kerrigan was probably more relieved than anyone else; the young Lancashire slow left-armer had dropped the same batsman when he had made 32 off 12 balls.
But the dismissal of Jayasuriya also marked the end of Worcestershire's realistic chances of overhauling Lancashire's total. Alexei Kervezee and Moeen Ali took the score to 104 in 13.5 overs before the Midlands side lost six wickets for 14 runs in 20 balls.
The most impressive bowler was Stephen Parry, who took his t20 wickets tally to 20 with figures of 3-19. Chapple recovered form his earlier mauling to take three wickets in four balls and finish with 3-36. Smith confirmed his Man of the Match award with three for 12 off his 2.4 overs.
Backing the bowlers up in fine style, Lancashire fielders performed superbly. Paul Horton took excellent catches at long on and long off, but the ground fielding as a whole offered plenty of justification for the view that Lancashire are about the best ground fielding side in the country.
Smith bowled Matt Mason to complete the victory and was understandably delighted with his evening.
"It was good to get a win after the disappointment of losing to Derbyshire yesterday," he said. "Losing two wickets in the first over can happen in Twenty20 but Horts and I, and then Chilly and I put together two good partnerships. We stuck to our plans and that meant we could build a good total. We're one of the best fielding and bowling sides and today we proved that as a batting side we're right up there. To turn it round from Sunday was a great effort."
Paul Edwards at Old Trafford
Photo: Simon Pendrigh
(c) Lancashire CCC Ltd