An impressive all-round display from new overseas star Farveez Maharoof helped Lancashire get their Clydesdale Bank 40 campaign off to a winning start
It was a historic day against the Unicorns, with the new-look square at Old Trafford on show for the first time.
Maharoof has played here before – he got 50 for Sri Lanka in a one-day international in 2006 – so the significance of the occasion would not have been lost on the 26 year-old from Colombo.
It was only the second time in the ground’s history that the bowling has come from north to south, and the first time in a competitive match, as part of the continued redevelopment of the famous old venue.
Seeing Neil Saker run in towards the pavilion, from the Statham End, to bowl the first ball to Stephen Moore was a strange feeling, but one that will became less so as time passes – especially if the Lightning continue to play like this.
They comfortably defended their competitive 201-5 after being invited to bat first by Unicorns’ skipper Keith Parsons, restricting the visitors to 181-9 in this Group C clash.
And Maharoof was at the heart of everything.
He hit a breezy 38 not out off 27 balls, helping to take 50 runs off the last five overs of the Lancashire innings whilst in partnership with Gareth Cross, before taking three of the last four wickets to fall to help wrap up the win.
After his debut hundred in the Championship win over Somerset last week, Maharoof – or The Roof, as he has been nicknamed by the Lancashire players – has become an instant hero.
He even had a vocal group of spectators singing ‘The Roof, The Roof, The Roof is on fire’ – a line from a 1980's song.
But it is not just his nickname that has caught on, so has his exciting brand of cricket.
“He is proving to be a quality signing, and the nickname The Roof is growing,” joked coach Peter Moores.
“He has started really well. He’s shown what a really good player he is. The partnership with Cross at the end was crucial because, with ten overs to go, the Unicorns had got themselves into a pretty good position.”
Captain Glen Chapple, who also finished with three wickets after returning to the line-up following a calf injury, added: “He played really well. He got to grips with the slow pitch pretty quickly. Maybe that’s because he plays in Sri Lanka or maybe that’s because he’s just a good player.
“He played some great shots, and got the impetus back in our innings. It was a crucial knock. He’s been a great signing so far. He’s got a good, long season with us. Let’s hope it continues.”
Timing was an issue on a slow and low pitch, with only Stephen Moore, during his 50 off 71 balls, and Maharoof looking at total ease with the conditions.
But each one of Lancashire’s top six got in, and there were also notable contributions of 41 off 60 balls from Steven Croft and 18 off eleven from Cross.
Medium pacer Glen Querl finished with 2-45 from eight for the visitors, while spin duo Amar Rashid – brother of Yorkshire’s Adil – and Chris Peploe struck.
On his changed surroundings, Chapple said: “It was like playing at a new ground. It’s probably not as hard as an Old Trafford pitch normally is. It was dry and crusty on top, and we’ll have to see how the games pan out for the rest of the season here.”
The visitors got their chase off to a steady start, with Jackson Thompson smearing Chapple over cover for six.
But the skipper came back superbly, striking three times in successive overs to leave the score at 34-3 in the ninth over. He bowled Michael Thornely, had Thompson caught behind by Cross and had Chris Benham caught by Paul Horton at first slip.
Wicketkeeper Josh Knappett (25) and Parsons (31) then steadied the ship with a fourth wicket partnership of 58 in 15 overs, but the required rate had increased thanks to tight bowling from left-arm spin duo Simon Kerrigan and Stephen Parry.
Kerrigan, on one-day debut, returned figures of 0-22 from eight, Parry 1-27 from eight, while Keedy improved during his six-over spell.
And, when medium pacer Luke Procter bowled Knappett and Keedy had Parsons caught behind, the hosts were firmly on top with the score at 92-5 in the 25th. They further strengthened their hold when Maharoof bowled Rashid and Parry had Luis Reece caught at short fine-leg by Keedy. The Unicorns were then 137-7 in the 32nd over.
Maharoof ended all hope of an away win when he had Saker caught at mid-on by Moore before bowling Querl. The Unicorns were never going to score the 26 they required off the last over.
Chapple added: “We can play better than that, but it’s nice to get a new competition off to a winning start. It’s a little bit tricky playing against the Unicorns because they’ve got some good players.
“They’ve also got a bit of a license because they’re not expected to win the competition. They can upset teams because they play positive cricket, so we had to be up for it.”
Photos (c) Simon Pendrigh
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