Lancashire Lightning's's four-wicket victory over Gloucestershire Gladiators in the Clydesdale Bank 40 was a match to remember in unforgettable surroundings.
Make no mistake, this game will warm us in the winter and it should also provide a few pleasant recollections for Paul Horton, whose 90-ball 97 was the highest score on either side in a hogfeast of a match for batsmen.
True, the win may not have carried quite the significance of the Old Trafford's side's victory over the same opponents in the Gillette Cup 40 years and three days ago, but Oliver Newby's demolition of David Payne in the 37th over of the game had echoes of David Hughes's assault on John Mortimore in Manchester's deep gloaming all those summers ago.
Needing a massive 291 to win, Newby's heroics helped his side to cruise to 294-6 with eleven balls to spare, and thus establish a new record total for Lancashire in a 40-over match, beating the 290-6 rattled up against Surrey at Whitgift School, Croydon in 2010.
Instead of South London, Steven Croft's batsmen chose another public school and the effortlessly affluent surroundings of Cheltenham College to set the new mark, and they did so despite being reduced to nought for two wickets in the first over.
Stephen Moore's dismissal, caught at slip by Gloucestershire's Alex Gidman, and that of Lancashire skipper Steven Croft, run out by Kevin O'Brien's direct hit from mid-on, had the inhabitants of the hospitality tents quaffing their Pimm's with gusto and it may also have put a spring in the step of the spinsters on their way to evensong; for yes, despite GCHQ and its Liberal loyalties, Cheltenham is the sort of place where John Major's conception of Englishness holds some sway.
Any joy felt by the locals on Sunday, however, was short-lived. Firstly, Karl Brown hit a quartet of boundaries and a six on his way to an 18-ball 27. Then Paul Horton and Tom Smith added 106 in less than 13 overs to prove that Lancashire's pursuit was in deadly earnest.
Helped by the glassy outfield - if the ball passed the fielder, the fielder rarely caught it - and a true pitch, Smith hit ten boundaries in reaching his fifty in 35 balls, and his departure, well caught by wicketkeeper Jonathan Batty off Kevin O'Brien for a 62-ball 77, left Lancashire on 160 for four after 20.2 overs.
While Smith had been hitting boundaries, Paul Horton had been content to push ones and twos and scamper for his partner, and the 28-year-old reached his own 50 off 46 balls with only six fours. At the other end Luke Procter made 15 and Gareth Cross, a 19-ball 26, which included a mighty six into Thirlestaine Road.
Both batsmen perished to catches in the deep off Kane Williamson and David Payne respectively, but their 34- and 42-run stands with Horton had maintained the tempo needed if Lancashire were to score at the required 7.25 runs per over to keep their hopes of semi-final qualification alive.
Yet when Cross was caught by Ian Cockbain at deep midwicket Lancashire still required 55 off six overs. Enter Oliver Newby, whose previous highest score in List A cricket was 12 not out. It is now 37 not out; Newby's three fours and two sixes took the former Gloucestershire loanee's team home and allowed them to hurry back for Monday's crucial County Championship match against Warwickshire in good heart.
"We're not scared of chasing anything and that's an attitude we're trying to encourage at the club," said Horton. "But when you overhaul 290 in whatever circumstances and on whatever wicket it's a good chase and this is really a feather in our cap,"
"At tea we definitely thought the total was gettable," he added. "It was a lightning outfield but the wicket was fine and, apart from a little spin, it played really flat."
"Losing two wickets in the first couple of overs increased my chances of getting in at No5 and influencing the game," said Horton, "and it was nice to bat with Tom and share a big partnership. It was a shame I didn't get a few more runs and score a hundred - but I'll take 97."
Lancashire's extraordinary run-chase was all the more pleasurable because the first innings of the game had been such a tough experience for Steven Croft's bowlers and fielders, who were chasing leather for most of the afternoon.
A flat wicket and a quick outfield created ideal conditions for the Gloucestershire batsmen, particularly Gidman whose 83-ball innings of 76 was the bedrock of his side's runfest in one English cricket's classiest environments
Gidman and Hamish Marshall put on 76 for the first wicket in just 10.3 overs on a day when neither the introduction of the spinners nor the fall of wickets put a prolonged brake on the scoring rate.
Nonetheless, Newby made the first breakthrough for Lancashire when he had Marshall well caught by Brown at deep midwicket for 25. Unfortunately for Croft's men, this success only brought Kane Williamson to the crease, and the New Zealander announced his intentions by depositing Simon Kerrigan on top of a sponsor's marquee, thus causing a slight break in the massive consumption of seafood taking place therein.
Aside from his one-man Save The Crustacean Campaign, Williamson added a further 74 runs with Gidman in less than 13 overs before the Gloucestershire captain was snaffled by wicketkeeper Cross when he attempted to cut Kerrigan.
Eight balls later, Lightning were enjoying another success when Wiliamson's leading edge gave a return catch to Stephen Parry. At that point, with the skipper out for 34, the score on 154 and two new batsmen at the wicket, Gloucestershire might have settled for a period of consolidation.
Chris Taylor and Cockbain, though, had other ideas. Having been contained for a while by the left-arm spin of Kerrigan and Parry, they, too, began to milk the bowling and added 86 in 11 overs, Taylor reaching an outstanding 36-ball fifty with a single off Junaid Khan.
The stylish and inventive right-hander was eventually caught by deep midwicket Croft off the bowling of Newby for 55, but the ex-Lancashire second team batsman Cockbain went on to reach a fifty against his former county in the final over of the innings.
By then, Kevin O'Brien had hit Khan for a four and a six into the sightscreen at the Chapel End and Gloucestershire closed on what they must have imagined was a match-winning 290-4 in 40 overs.
Parry, who took one for 43, and Kerrigan, one for 43, were the most economical members of the Lancashire attack on an afternoon when most bowlers would have preferred to be tucking into the moules mariniere and the whitebait with the blazer and chino brigade.
Lancs record run chase
Photo (c) Simon Pendrigh
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