Lancashire Lightning strike to secure Blast title

Lancashire Lightning strike to secure Blast title

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Lancashire 166-7 off 20 overs (Prince 43, Davies 47 – Afridi 3-14, Willey 2-21) beat Northants Steelbacks 153-6 off 20 overs (Cobb 44* – Griffiths 2-23, Faulkner 2-23) by 13 runs

Ashley Giles celebrated his return to Edgbaston as Lancashire won their first limited overs title of the 21st century by beating the Northamptonshire Steelbacks in a closely contested match that at last brought Finals Day to life. A great team performance gave Lancashire a well-deserved win.

Northants battled hard but were facing the highest score of the day to win and in the end wilted in the face of well-directed bowling and tight out-cricket, with just a single lapse in the field from Lancashire.

Both teams were unchanged for the final. It was no surprise that, having won the toss for the second time, the Steelbacks decided once again to field first.

Ashwell Prince and Alex Davies made a positive start to the Lancashire innings, Davies twice square driving Rory Kleinveldt for boundaries and Ashwell Prince swinging the pacey Ollie Stone over mid-wicket for four. The batsmen skilfully varied their positions on the crease to unsettle the bowlers. Davies hit Azharullah over mid-off for four and then flicked him backward of square with the same result.

52-0 was easily the best power play result of the day.

When Graeme White came into the attack, Davies drove him over extra cover and then hit straight for six before running a pair of canny twos. Fifteen off the over was not what Northants wanted from the first over of spin.

Josh Cobb, who didn’t get a bowl in the first game, came on and dismissed Alex Davies for 47 off just 26 balls, his best T20 score. Davies advanced down the pitch and in effect yorked himself. Northants quickly enjoyed another success. Shahid Afridi beat Brown down the leg side, wicket keeper Duckett appealed for a catch, Brown wandered off down the pitch and Duckett eventually took off the bails. It emerged that the decision was a catch rather than a stumping.

Jos Buttler started well – reverse sweeping Cobb for four and then hitting Graeme White for a monster straight six to bring up the Lancashire 100 in the 13th over. He then struck White just over Josh Cobb at long on for another maximum.

Just as it looked as though Lancashire were getting away from the Steelbacks, David Willey returned and first with a slower ball got Buttler to sky to Cobb at deep cover. Then anchorman Ashwell Prince steered a slower ball bouncer to backward point to depart for 43 off 45 balls. At the start of the next over, Afridi tempted James Faulkner to mis-hit to extra cover. Next ball, Afridi came up with a googly to bowl Livingstone. Lancashire were 130-6.

Afridi almost had Croft stumped off a big leg break but the batsman was saved by his big toe courtesy of the third umpire. Afridi finished with 3-14 off his four overs, more than justifying the cost of his return ticket. David Willey then ended his Northants bowling career with 2-21 off his four overs to go with his 3-30 earlier in the day.

Rory Kleinveldt rushed through the 19th over to avoid a time penalty but was forced to exchange this for 14 runs. Croft was run out in the last over as Arron Lilley tried to cope with Azharullah’s yorkers. He finally managed to strike the last ball of the innings for six over Cobb’s outstretched hands at wide long on.

166-7 was easily the highest total of the day so far, setting a demanding target for the Steelbacks.

When Northants came out to bat, Lancashire started with an over from Steven Croft before Richard Levi struck Gavin Griffiths for two off-side fours. David Willey made a steady start but then swung a Faulkner slower ball over square leg for six. In the same over, Levi hit hard and straight to Alex Davies at mid-off to depart for 16.

Willey struck George Edwards for two off-side fours, the second just clearing mid-off. Next over though, he skied Faulkner and Lilley ran back at mid-wicket to judge the catch beautifully. At the end of the powerplay, the Steelbacks were 48-2.

The Lancashire spinners, Lilley and Parry, did their best to squeeze the life out of the Northants innings. Duckett switch-hit off Parry to pull off a boundary, then hit Lilley over extra cover for another four and edged down the leg-side for a third.

He tried to swing Parry to leg and missed to be palpably lbw. The Steelbacks needed more than Duckett’s bright cameo of 20 off 16 balls. At 76-3 after 11 overs, the pressure was on them with 91 needed off nine.

Steven Crook heaved Croft into the safe hands of Lilley at deep mid-wicket. Afridi almost went first ball when he skied into a gap at mid-off. Much now rested on the shoulders of ‘Boom-Boom’ Afridi and he struck a mighty six over mid-wicket off Croft to bring the 100 up and assure the supporters that he could put up the require fight.

The rate was refusing to drop below 10 an over though and it needed Josh Cobb to come to the party. He did his best by striking a four and then a six off Edwards.

Afridi flat-batted a hard return catch to Faulkner. He not only dropped it but dislocated a finger. After the inevitable delay for treatment, Afridi edged the next ball just over the wicket-keeper for four. With four overs to go, the Steelbacks needed 42 to win. Despite being struck for four by Cobb, Lilley held his nerve to concede just six off his over.

George Griffiths suffered the disappointment of Alex Davies dropping Cobb at deep mid-off but had massive consolation next ball when Afridi hit a slower ball to Liam Livingstone on the cover boundary. Afridi’s 26 off 18 balls was good but not quite good enough.

Faulkner came back onto the field to bowl the 19th over and Kleinveldt square cut a slower ball for four. Overall, he conceded only eight runs and left the pitch having done his job, 2-25 off his four overs.

Youngster Griffiths had the task of bowling the last over. Only two singles came off the first two balls and then Kleinveldt hit straight to Croft at long off. It was all over for the Steelbacks who ended up losing by 13 runs. Cobb’s 44 off 37 was never going to be quite enough. The Lancashire bowlers shared the honours but with particular credit going to Faulkner (2-25) and Griffiths with 2-23.

Alex Davies, with his innings of 47 off just 26 balls had supplied the early momentum and he deserved to receive his man-of-the-match award before joining his colleagues in celebrating receipt of their first T20 trophy.

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