Francois du Plessis hit an inspiring century to send Lancashire Lightning into the semi-finals of the Friends Provident Trophy at the expense of holders Essex Eagles today.
The South African recorded three figures off only 71 balls to light up a sun baked Old Trafford, becoming the fastest one-day centurion of the English summer so far. He beat his own 76-ball record, which came against Derbyshire earlier in the competition.
The 24 year-old went from 50 to 100 in just 19 balls to help his side record 262-6, and it proved too much for the Chelmsford side as Lancashire booked a home semi-final date against Hampshire Hawks on July, 5.
In total du Plessis hit five fours and seven sixes to help accrue a mammoth 121 runs off the last 12 overs, including 63 runs off the five overs of batting powerplay. He finished unbeaten on 113 off 75 balls.
Left-arm spinner Gary Keedy then picked up 4-45 from ten overs as Essex were bowled out for 195 with six overs to spare. Lancashire won by 67 runs.
“That’s up there with the best,” said Faf. “I was very pleased with the way I batted. It was quite tough because it was a slow track. To score a hundred on a day like that, I was over the moon.”
Essex opening bowler David Masters had put his side in healthy shape with a superb ten over spell of 2-14, including four maidens, after the visitors won the toss and elected to bowl. He claimed the wickets of Paul Horton and Steven Croft to help leave Lancashire struggling at 154-5 in the 41st over. Part-time left-arm spinner Grant Flower had also taken 2-9 in three overs.
When du Plessis strode to the crease Lancashire were 86-3 in the 27th. Fellow South African Ashwell Prince had hit 40 and Mark Chilton 43 on a slow track similar to the one these two sides played their Group D match on earlier this week.
He reached his 50 in the 45th over off 52 balls before pulverising the Essex bowling looking particularly strong through and over cover.
“I played an good innings when I got 114 against the Eagles this year,” continued du Plessis. “From the word go I played fluently, In general my whole innings was good. Today I had to graft. It was a bit boring at the start, taking singles, but when the powerplay came I unleashed a bit of fury!”
His last four innings in this competition have now read 113 not out here, 51, also against Essex on Wednesday, 112 against Derbyshire and 40 not out against Northamptonshire.
Lancashire continued their momentum with the ball too, reducing the Eagles to 23-2 in the tenth over of their chase. England opener Alastair Cook (12) was the victim of a fine running catch by Sajid Mahmood at mid-on off the bowling of Glen Chapple. And that man du Plessis was back in the action again, this time with a dead-eyed throw to get rid of in-form Varun Chopra for a duck.
Mark Pettini (24) and Matt Walker later departed to Kyle Hogg and Gary Keedy to leave the score at 76-4 in the 24th. Mahmood, Lancashire’s leading FPT wicket-taker, got in on the act in the 29th by removing James Foster courtesy of a diving catch by Chapple. It left Essex in deep trouble at 99-5.
Flower was Essex’s last hope, but when he went caught at mid-wicket by Horton off the bowling of Tom Smith for 44 off 57 balls Lancashire were virtually home and hosed with the score 130-6 in the 36th. Graham Napier followed to Mahmood for 19 before Kaneria, Chris Wright and Ryan ten Doeschate (41) all fell to Keedy.
Lancashire are now just one game away from a Lord’s final, what would be their first since 2006. Du Plessis added: “To play at Lord’s would be unbelievable. I have always wanted to play there. But we can’t look too far ahead because we have got a semi-final to play first.”
Photos: Simon Peendrigh
(c) Lancashire CCC Ltd