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Croft's best edges Royals
Croft's best edges Royals
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Lancashire finished their North Division campaign with an entertaining seven run win over the Worcs Royals set up by a career best 88 from Steven Croft


The Lightning, who occupied third spot at the conclusion of the North Division campaiagn, posted 198-6 thanks also to Tom Smith’s 40, and 23 apiece for Nathan McCullum and Gareth Cross.

But Moeen Ali’s 72 off 39 kept his side in the hunt for the win until Sajid Mahmood and Smith claimed three wickets between them in the last two overs.

The Lightning will now face Essex Eagles at Chelmsford Tuesday week (July 27th) in the quarter finals.

“It’s always important to win games, and to go into that quarter final with a win is good,” said captain Paul Horton. “We learnt a few more things about ourselves.

“You learn a lot in 16 games. No side in the country has won all 16, and there have been some ups and downs. But the sides who have learnt most about themselves will be the most successful going into the quarter finals. We’re in real good shape going into that match against Essex.”

Opener Smith and Croft shared 81 in 37 balls for the second wicket, taking a liking to James Cameron, Moeen and Daryl Mitchell in particular with a series of fours and sixes.

Smith became the first Lightning batsman to pass 500 runs in the summer as he and Stephen Moore got off to a racing start. When Moore was bowled by Imran Arif in the fourth over, the Lightning had 29 runs on the board.

Croft was soon into his stride with successive fours and a six off Gareth Andrew in the fifth over, and he swung Cameron over the mid wicket boundary for another maximum in the next as Lancs reached 63-1 after the six overs of powerplays.

Croft was caught off a Cameron no ball on 43 in the eighth over, and made the hosts pay with the first ball of the ninth over when he brought up his half century off 22 balls and his side’s hundred with a six over mid-wicket off Mitchell’s medium pace.

Smith was bowled by impressive left arm spinner Shaaiq Choudhry in the tenth over. But, at 113-2 at the halfway stage, the Red Rose were firmly on course for a big total.

Worcs fought back, bowling a four over spell without a boundary, and Choudhry finished with 1-27 from four overs, the pick of the bowling figures.

Paul Horton, captain for the day in the absence of Glen Chapple and Mark Chilton, did not last long at the crease because he was run out backing up by Andrew to leave the score at 118-3 in the eleventh.

Kiwi McCullum, making his last appearance for the county, hit sixes over long off and long on off Choudhry in his 17-ball stay at the crease, but skewed a Jack Shantry delivery to Mitchell at point in the 17th.

Croft was neatly caught behind by Ben Cox to give Shantry, the left arm seamer, his second wicket early in the 19th, and Lancs were 178-5.

Gareth Cross hit two sixes and a four in his 12-ball knock to keep the Lightning in sight of 200, but he was caught in the deep off the bowling of Andrew with the last ball of the innings.

Horton added: “Crofty played really well. He abused the small boundaries – they weren’t big enough for him.”

Worcestershire’s chase got off to the worst possible start when Croft, opening the bowling instead of McCullum, bowled Jack Manuel with the fourth ball of the innings to leave the score at 5-1.

But the wicket was followed by two successive boundaries for Moeen to get the hosts up and running.

Moeen then pulled both Mahmood and Daren Powell for sixes over square leg and mid wicket respectively, and he was matching Croft almost blow for blow. When he reached his 50 off 23 balls, his side were 60-1 in the sixth.

Moeen and Solanki shared a second wicket of 66 in 39 balls, but the latter was bowled by McCullum with his first ball to leave the score at 71-2 in the eighth.

Moeen continued on his merry way though, pulling Stephen Parry and McCullum for sixes in the ninth and tenth overs. He led the hosts to a score of 96-2 at the halfway stage of their innings.

But Gary Keedy put the skids under the Royals with two wickets in consecutive overs to reduce the score to 111-4, picking up the wickets of Alexei Kervezee and Moeen.

He had Kervezee caught at long on by Croft and Moeen caught at deep mid wicket by Moore, and that seemed like it was game up for Worcester.

But Cameron and Mitchell kept their side in the hunt with a series of boundaries until they were two of the three wickets to fall in the last 12 balls with 23 runs needed off two.

Mahmood, who finished with 2-26 from three, had Cameron (26) caught at long on by Croft and Andrew caught by Smith at mid off. Smith then bowled Mitchell for 39 with the first ball of the last.

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