Lancashire have qualified for the quarter-finals of the Friends Life t20 competition after another fantastic exhibition of death bowling from their pace trio against Warwicks at Old Trafford
The Red Rose county had their backs firmly against the wall as they scrapped and battled to defend 140.
And, with the Bears at 103-1 after 15 overs needing just 37 with opening batsman Will Porterfield at the crease in the midst of his innings of 63 off 64 balls, their hopes of securing a knockout berth tonight were fading.
But Junaid Khan, Farveez Maharoof and Sajid Mahmood were key in squeezing the rate to leave the visitors needing 23 runs off two overs and 18 off the last, to win for the fifth match in a row.
Stephen Moore’s 76 off 58 balls was not enough to build a telling target on a slow pitch as only Tom Smith’s 26 backed him up, the Lightning finishing with 139-8 after Steven Croft elected to bat first.
Then Lancashire's excellence in the field and with the ball, mirroring Tuesday’s spectacular win at Northampton, proved that they are always in the game.
Warwickshire finished on 127-4 as Lancashire won by 12 runs, rendering Friday’s final North Division group game against Northants as a battle for pride only because the Lightning have also secured third place in the standings.
“It was a brilliant performance at the end by the lads,” said skipper Croft, who again paid tribute to Junaid.
“In games before Junaid arrived, we’ve had more runs to play with and not bowled as well. We don’t need as many on the board with Junaid bowling. We always back ourselves to drag it back at the end.”
Earlier, Moore and Smith put on 61 for the first wicket inside eight overs to get the hosts off to an impressive start on a slow pitch.
Taking pace off the ball proved useful for the Bears, whose spin duo of Ant Botha and Jeetan Patel put the brakes. Botha took two wickets.
Moore’s huge six off Darren Maddy, which landed on the Metrolink track at the Statham End of the ground, was the only one of the innings. And, after a flurry of fours in the first six overs of powerplay, the Lightning did not score a boundary for six overs immediately afterwards.
Smith fell to a superb diving catch at mid-wicket by Rikki Clarke off Botha’s left-arm spin, and Clarke took three catches in all.
Moore and Croft were restricted to ones and twos before Croft was the first of seven wickets to fall for 45 runs, the innings subsiding from 94-1 early in the 14th over, and Lancashire lost five wickets for 12 runs in 14 balls to slip from 127-3 in the 18th over.
Croft, Karl Brown, Gareth Cross and Moore all mistimed shots, with Moore the first of three wickets to fall in a superb last over of the innings from Chris Woakes, who also trapped Luke Procter and saw Mahmood run out.
“We would have liked a few more runs after the start we made in the first six overs,” said Moore, who scooped the man of the match award. “But, with our bowling attack, any score is good.”
Junaid was the only member of Lancashire’s five-man attack not to take a wicket. But he, like his fellow pace pair and spin duo Gary Keedy and Stephen Parry, was economical in terms of his figures as the Bears wilted under the pressure.
Varun Chopra and Keith Barker were bowled by Parry and Keedy, while Porterfield and Clarke holed out to fielders in the deep off Maharoof and Mahmood.
Croft added: “We’ve picked up momentum just at the right time. We’ve now won our last five, and we will look to keep that going into the quarter-finals.”
Photo (c) Simon Pendrigh
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