Paul Horton and Gareth Cross kept Lancashire in the hunt for a Clydesdale Bank 40 semi-final spot with a great Friday night run chase at Old Trafford
Paul Edwards reports
Friday night saw a series of floodlit duels in the vicinity of Old Trafford: Manchester United v New York Cosmos, Paul Horton v Gloucestershire Gladiators and........ Lanky the Giraffe v a stormtrooper out of Star Wars.
All of these encounters were entertaining, particularly the latter tussle between the partisan mammal and the Galactic defender. All the same, nothing mattered much to Lancashire fans ahead of Monday's Friends Provident t20 quarter-final at Hove except seeing their side play confident, skilful, limited-overs cricket.
This, they did, largely courtesy of a superbly controlled innings of 95 not out in 91 balls by Horton, who guided Lancashire Lightning to a six-wicket victory over Gloucestershire Gladiators in their Group C Clydesdale Bank 40 match at Old Trafford, a result which keeps alive the Red Rose team's chances of qualifying for the semi-finals.
Horton, who had made 97 not out in Lightning's four-wicket win in the corresponding fixture at Cheltenham last Sunday, hit six boundaries in his 91-ball innings and shared an unbroken fifth-wicket partnership of 123 in 20.1 overs with Gareth Cross, who made an unbeaten 66
The pair's skilful placement ran Alex Gidman's bowlers and fielders ragged as the Old Trafford side overhauled Gloucestershire 40-over total of 235-6 with seven balls to spare.
Horton hit three dreamy fours in the first 20 balls he faced, but only three more in the remainder of his innings, a testament to his skill in manoeuvring the ball into gaps against Gloucestershire's bowlers, the pick of whom was slow-left-armer Ed Young, who took one for 37
But if the Sefton Park's cricketers innings was of such quality that it further complicates selection for Monday's match at Hove, Cross's 67-ball 66, his highest score in any format since May 4th, was not far behind.
The pair's understanding and running between the wickets was outstanding, and Cross had a characteristically pithy explanation of why he seemed somewhat more sprightly than his colleague.
"Horts was knackered," he said. "Obviously he'd been in for a bit before me, but I just said: 'Look I'm going to push you," and he said 'Yeah, keep going'. But our running and fielding is something that we've got over a lot of teams and it helped us gain twenty or thirty runs tonight."
Horton and Cross's cricket was splendidly undemonstrative, a quality not shown in the press box by my colleague Chris Ostick, who went to the window to wave at two fans who had tweeted to compliment him on his writing. Well, bless.
The home side's pursuit of their target had got off to a poor start in the first over when Karl Brown was caught at cover by Hamish Marshall off Ian Saxelby for four. But the promising Boltonian was only opening the innings because Stephen Moore had sustained a cut between his thumb and index finger when fielding.
The Lancashire batsman had two stitches in the wound on Friday evening and was due to bat at No7. Lancashire coach Peter Moores expressed optimism that he would be fit for Monday's game.
Lancashire's score of four for one after a single over was comparative luxury compared to Sunday's CB40 game when they were nought for two at the same stage.
Steven Croft's 21-ball 28 built on this solid platform before the skipper was well caught at backward point by Chris Taylor off David Payne; both the position of the fielder and the quality of the catch made the dismissal typical of Croft's own work - which was not something likely to comfort the batsman as he trudged off wth the scoreboard reading 40 for two
Tom Smith and Horton effected a partial recovery with a stand of 56 for the third wicket in less than ten overs before Smith perished at long on off Vikram Banerjee when he had made 29. Jordan Clark was then bowled by the Young for eight when he came down the wicket and played all around a straight delivery to leave his side on 113 for four.
That, however, was the last success the Gladiators were to enjoy. The rest of the innings belonged to Cross and Horton, who ticked off the statistical milestones, whether inidivdual or in partnership with easy regularity: Horton's 50 in 48 balls; the 50 partnership in 56 balls; Cross's own half-century in 56 balls; the century partnership in 109 balls.
It must have made depressing watching for the cricketing denizens of Stroud and Painswick. In the Rossendale valley, on the other hand, they rather enjoyed it all, particularly Cross's return to form.
"Obviously I've not got that many runs recently," admitted Cross, "but I've been hitting them quite well, same as I was at the start of the year.
"Even when Tom and Clarky got out, we knew we were favourites to win. We wanted to finish the game with an over left so as to not put pressure on people. I think Horts'll settle for ninety-odd not out. He's done his job."
In the first innings of the game Gloucestershire's Kane Wiliamson had batted fluently to make 64 as the Gladiators posted a formidable 235 for six in their 40-over allocation.
The highly promising 20-year-old New Zealander hit only two boundaries in his 78-ball innings, but worked the ball around impressively as his colleagues struggled against the three Lancashire spinners, who bowled 18 of the 40 overs and were the most economical members of the Red Rose attack.
Stephen Parry was the meanest, conceding 40 runs from his eight overs and claiming the wickets of Chris Taylor, lbw for 25, Williamson caught by Cross, and Jonathan Batty, caught at long on by Croft for 29.
The Gladiators had reached 139 when Williamson was fourth out in the 29th over, leaving Ian Cockbain and Batty to take the attack to the home bowlers.
The fith-wicket pair accomplished this task in impressive fashion, Cockbain making 59 off 50 balls, his second CB 40 half-century in six days against the county he played for as a junior.
Cockbain added 69 in under ten overs with Batty before the Gloucestershire wicketkeeper holed out, and the former Bootle batsman was sixth man to be dismissed, caught at cover by Sajid Mahmood off Junaid Khan in the 39th over.
Gary Keedy bowled well in his typically unobtrusive manner - one day he'll just wander off, sit in the crowd and no one'll notice, until they need a spinner - to take one for 42 and claiming the wicket of Alex Gidman who was deceived in the flight - just as Warwickshire's Will Porterfield had been over 24 hours earlier - and caught by the bowler for 22.
Sajid Mahmood claimed the other wicket when opener Hamish Marshall edged a fine delivery to Cross in the second over.
THE RACE FOR BEST 2ND PLACE TEAM & REMAINING SEMI-FINAL SPOT
Photo (c) Simon Pendrigh
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