Croft best guides Lancashire to commanding win

Croft best guides Lancashire to commanding win

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Pic:: Luke Adams

A T20 career-best of 94 not out from Lancashire captain Steven Croft guided the Lightning to a whopping 67-run victory against the Derbyshire Falcons at Emirates Old Trafford.

Croft and James Faulkner – who scored 47 not out in his first match in Manchester for Lancashire – shared a staggering unbeaten partnership for the fourth wicket worth 151 runs in 75 balls to take the home side to 201/3 after they were made to bat first.

The Falcons were bowled out for 134 with ten balls to spare in a reply which never really got going, as Stephen Parry claimed 4/16 in three overs to obliterate the Falcons and get revenge for the humbling defeat suffered in the reverse fixture.

Derbyshire’s innings fell to pieces after the dismissal of Tillakaratne Dilshan, as the Falcons lost their final nine wickets for 97 runs to give Lancashire their third win of the campaign and their second win on the bounce after beating Yorkshire last week at Headingley.

This was the twelfth game in a row where Derbyshire have failed to win on the road and the visitors will need to improve quickly after suffering five defeats in six games, leaving them bottom of the North Group.

Lancashire struggled to find the ropes regularly but the hard-hitting efforts of Croft and Faulkner ensured that the hosts added 126 runs in the final eight overs to leave Derbyshire a mammoth task under floodlights.

Steady progress in the first six overs guided Lancashire to a powerplay score of 42/1 after the loss of Ashwell Prince (19), who was trapped lbw by former Lancashire man Wayne White (1/40) at 29/1.

Karl Brown – playing in his 50th Twenty20 game for the Red Rose – managed to make eight runs from as many deliveries before he was caught at long-on off Tony Palladino (1/39), leaving Lancashire on 44/2.

Liam Livingstone was willing to swing from the hip, but he was starved of the strike and he fell just after Lancashire had reached 50 when he attempted a reverse-sweep and was bowled by Derbyshire skipper Wes Durston.

Durston finished with 1/25 from his allocation, removing Livingstone with the score at 50/3 in the eighth over, but this was to be the final moment of success for the visitors as Croft and Faulkner demolished every bowler who dared to enter the attack.

Both batsmen started gradually but maximums became a common sight for the home crowd as Faulkner thumped Palladino for six and then a four in consecutive deliveries.

The Australian played a perfect anchor role to Croft’s innings as he played freely and ran well between the wickets to give Croft the strike in the latter overs, as he edged towards a maiden century in this format.

Croft – who has played in more than 100 consecutive Twenty20 matches for Lancashire – led the innings with 94 not out in 51 balls, an innings containing nine fours and two sixes.

Lancashire were assisted by several poor overs from the Derbyshire attack, reaching a fifty partnership in 39 balls to recover the innings after an indifferent start.

Durston exhausted his options, introducing Chesney Hughes into the attack, but he went for 16 runs his only over as Croft smashed his innocuous slow left-arm delivery to the mid-wicket boundary, guiding the captain to a 30-ball fifty.

The worst was yet to come for Derbyshire as Nathan Rimmington (0/53) conceded 29 runs in an over containing a beamer that went for four and two more sixes for Faulkner, taking the fourth-wicket stand to a value off 100 runs in just 62 balls.

Faulkner hit two fours and three sixes in his 30 ball-innings and assisted Croft beautifully to take Lancashire beyond 200 off the final ball of the innings with more quick running to prolong Derbyshire’s misery, also bringing the partnership to a value of 151 runs.

It was impossible to keep Croft and Faulkner (1/19) out of the game as they teamed up to claim the wicket of Durston with the second ball of the innings when the visiting captain edged to Croft at first slip.

The run-chase was far from over and Dilshan threatened to rain on Lancashire’s parade by finding the boundary regularly in the powerplay overs. The Sri-Lankan batsman added 21 in 16 balls before falling to Tom Bailey (2/24) when he top-edged to Alex Davies with the score at 37/2.

Bailey had started badly after being hit for six off a no-ball with his first delivery of the match but he forced Dlishan to pull at a bouncer which he skied to Davies, who took a good catch to remove Derbyshire’s most dangerous player.

Derbyshire posted a respectable score of 53/2 at the end of the Powerplay as Hughes picked up the responsibility left behind by Dilshan and his powerful hitting kept the Falcons in touching distance for a while before the innings fell apart.

Hughes top scored for Derbyshire with 39 from 32 balls, but he failed to inspire what would have been a remarkable comeback for the visitors and he eventually departed when he was caught by Prince off Arron Lilley (1/13), leaving Derbyshire on 79/3.

Bailey struck again with the score at 99/4 when he bowled Billy Godleman for 18 and Wayne Madsen – who also made 18 – top-edged a reverse-sweep off Croft (1-14) to Stephen Parry at point, as Derbyshire’s top-order batsmen struggled to match the efforts of their opponents.

Parry continued to make headway with the ball, removing Tom Poynton (6) and Scott Elstone (7) in quick succession, as both Derbyshire batsmen found Lilley on the boundary. The first catch forced Lilley to run from long-on to take a catch over his head, but on the second occasion he didn’t have to move as he took a straightforward catch in front of The Point.

Two wickets in three balls left Derbyshire in a desolate position at 117/7 and the tail were left the impossible task of scoring 78 runs from the final three overs, an equation which demonstrated just how well Lancashire had played and vice versa for their opponents.

Parry claimed another two wickets in his next over, removing Shiv Takor lbw for 7, before White (4) mistimed a slog to Croft at point, leaving the Falcons on 134/9.

Saqib Mahmood (1/14) wrapped up the innings, claiming his first wicket on his debut for Lancashire when Palladino edged behind for 5, as the visitors were all out for 134 inside 19 overs.

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