Lancashire Lightning put recent Friends Life t20 disappointments behind them on Friday as they inflicted a 26-run defeat on Durham Dynamos at Old Trafford.
The performance of Steven Croft's side was full of good things, all of which were enjoyed by a good crowd at Old Trafford, and the win was also a timely boost to Lancashire's hopes of qualifying from a tightly-contested North Division.
Man of the match Karl Brown and Steven Croft took most of the batting honours with innings of 51 apiece, but the most noticeable quality about the home side's display was the purposeful manner in which they defended their total of 161 for five and restricted the visitors to 135 for nine. The phrase "men on a mission" came to mind as one watched Lancashire's athletic, tightly-focused exhibition of cricketing skills.
The attack did not possess a weak link. Farveez Maharoff struck a blow in the first over when he had Phil Mustard caught at deep square leg by Luke Procter and Junaid Khan celebrated his Old Trafford debut by having Ian Blackwell caught by mid-on Gary Keedy before bowling Paul Collingwood round his legs for three.
A bad day for the Dynamos' engineering only got worse when left-arm spinners Gary Keedy and Stephen Parry got to work. Parry's first success, the bowling of Dale Benkenstein prompted considerable delight among his colleagues which was understandable given their seemingly endless suffering at the Zimbabwean's hands at Liverpool this week. It looked like an arm-ball had got rid of the Durham danger man, but Parry later admitted that it "just didn't turn".
At the other end, a routinely athletic catch by Croft enabled Keedy to remove Will Smith for 11 and a very sharp Gareth Cross stumping off the same bowler saw the back of Gordon Muchall for 13.
Farveez Maharoof then pulled off a remarkable forward-diving catch running in from the square leg boundary to dismiss Gareth Breese, Parry the beneficiary, and leave the visitors in some disarray at 49 for 6 in the ninth over.
After twelve overs Durham were 68 for seven and one or two of the more vindictive Lancashire supporters - if such a ruthless breed exists - might have been hoping that their team could repeat the 83-run margin of victory Durham inflicted on Croft's men exactly a week ago at the Riverside.
Such exquisite delights were not to be. Liam Plunkett and Scott Borthwick added 46 for the eighth wicket in little more than six overs and Tom Smith might have been wondering just how costly his dropping of Borthwick at long-on off Parry when the left-hander had made only 20 might prove to be.
Not very, was the answer. Junaid Khan returned to run out the benificiary of Smith's miss for 30 and the Pakistani seamer also ran out Plunkett for 41 in the last over. The Dynamos had needed 50 off the last three overs but they barely got halfway to their goal.
Keedy finished the match with two for 17, Parry, two for 27. Farveez Maharoof returned to his best form with one for 21 and Khan had two for 20.
"Under pressure, that was our best t20 performance of the season," said Parry after the game. "We knew we had to win and that's when we play our best cricket. When we've had to pull a performance out this year, we have done so.
"You find a hunger again, because you know the games are running out and you've got to win. The games against Nottinghamshire and Durham last week were the only two when we just didn't muck in as a team. We sat and spoke about it, and then we put it right today."
Lancashire's batting was exhilarating too, although the innings had got off to a bad start when opener Stephen Moore played on to Mitchell Claydon in the third over.
But Tom Smith and Steven Croft effected a recovery with a careful second-wicket partnership of 37 in 31 balls before Smith was well caught by his namesake Will Smith at long-on off Gareth Breese's first ball.
That dismissal, though, only brought Karl Brown to the crease and 23-year-old then shared an exhilarating 78-run partnership in 8.2 overs with Croft.
As Durham's bowling and fielding became ragged in mid-innings, both Brown and Croft expanded their range of shot and capitalised on any errors. Both batsmen hit two sixes and stand-in Lancashire skipper Croft reached his fifty, which also included three fours, off 34 balls.
Croft eventually perished when he miscued Collingwood to Breese at cover, but Brown, who had benefited from a missed stumping by Mustard when only seven, completed a maiden t20 half century. Remarkably, both batsmen made 51 off 36 balls.
Sajid Mahmood and Farveez Maharoof took 14 runs off the last over bowled by Claydon, Mahmood delightedly depositing the Durham seamer's last ball over long off for six. Claydon was still the pick of the visitors' attack with two for 24, although Collingwood also bowled well to finish with one for 22 off three overs.
Photo (c) Simon Pendrigh
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