Overseas ace Junaid Khan was the hero as Lancashire pulled off an incredible three-run win against Northants in the Friends Life t20 tonight.
The 21 year-old Pakistani fast bowler returned figures of 2-12 from four overs, including a magnificent last over to defend seven runs, after the Red Rose had only posted a below par 110-9.
Junaid took two wickets with the new ball after a number of Red Rose batsmen had holed out to fielders following captain Steven Croft’s decision to bat after winning the toss.
This was a tricky pitch on which to time the ball, and Northants did not do the best job of showing the way to compile a total as the North Division’s bottom team threw away a seemingly unassailable position as they struggled against pace in particular.
At its easiest, the task Northants faced was to get only 30 runs off the last five overs with seven wickets in hand.
Rob White (33) and Alex Wakely, who top scored with 52, shared a third-wicket partnership of 62 in ten overs after the hosts had fallen to 16-2.
Had the Steelbacks won this, their partnership would no doubt have been hailed as just what was required. Instead, they batted their side into trouble with the kind of caution that would have been right at home in the LV= County Championship.
Junaid had got Niall O’Brien caught at point by Croft as he attempted an uppercut before getting Botha caught behind in a fiery burst with the new ball.
And Sajid Mahmood also struck twice, including getting Bilal Shafayat caught at long-on by Farveez Maharoof in the penultimate.
Mahmood’s efforts in the 19th over must not go unmentioned as he gave his fellow pace ace something to work with. In the end, it proved to be enough to work with as the Lightning won their fourth match in a row.
Wakely was run out by Stephen Moore early in the last over, and they never recovered against Junaid’s accurate and speedy yorkers.
David Willey then failed to hit the last ball of the match for four as Lancashire clinched the win that means they have now secured more Twenty20 victories than any other team in the history of English Twenty20.
A win under the Old Trafford lights against Warwickshire Bears tomorrow will secure Lancashire’s place in the quarter-finals.
After the match Croft hailed Junaid, saying: “Junaid’s one of the best death bowlers I’ve ever seen.
“He’s only young cricket wise, but he’s one of the best around already. The yorker has become a little bit underestimated nowadays. As you saw in that last over, if you’re good at it, it can be impossible to hit. It was an awesome last over that he bowled.”
Earlier, Northants skipper Andrew Hall finished with excellent figures of 3-17 from four overs, while Jack Brooks and Lee Daggett both took two on a pitch showing plenty of signs of uneven bounce.
Moore, Tom Smith, Croft, Maharoof, Cross and Luke Procter all miscued attempted attacking shots to fielders, while Karl Brown was also run out following a mix-up with Maharoof.
Despite losing three wickets inside the first seven overs, Lancashire still made a bright start. They managed to score 45 runs off the first six overs of powerplay, but they stumbled from then on.
Croft added: “It will take a lot to beat that Yorkshire win in the Championship, but it’s up there as one of the best wins I’ve been involved in.”
Photo (c) Tony Marshall/EMPICS Sport
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