The pre-season Emirates T20 tournament in Dubai began with a resounding success for Glen Chapple’s Lancashire Lightning, who delivered a commanding performance to beat Birmingham Bears.
The Bears, now with Ashley Giles at the helm after his move from Lancashire this winter, endured a difficult time on the first day of the tournament as they were also beaten by Pakistan Super League side Lahore Qalandars.
And the third county side in action out in Dubai were Durham Jets, who also suffered defeat at the hands of a PSL side, as they slipped to a 35-run defeat by Peshawar Zalmi.
Having lost the toss in front of a meagre crowd at the ICC Academy, Lancashire got off to a tough start losing Alex Davies to the fourth delivery without a run on the board.
But England Lions star Liam Livingstone set about posting a competitive total with a well-made 52 from just 29 balls, including four maximums. He found support from Karl Brown, who made 31, but Lancashire struggled to find a finish to the innings and posted a total of 159.
But the Lightning struck twice inside the first two overs, as James Anderson and Saqib Mahmood removed Sam Hain and Keith Barker. The Bears were 9-2 and, despite a 50-run stand between Ian Bell and Tim Ambrose, were always struggling.
Stephen Parry’s left-arm spin removed that duo and he went on to finish with figures of 3-12 from his four overs. Jordan Clark wrapped up the tail with 3-14 as 2015 Blast champions Lancashire skittled the 2014 champions for just 96 – winning by 63 runs.
The Bears returned in the third match of the day with a much-changed side to take on Lahore, and fell seven runs short of the PSL sides’ total.
Sukhjit Singh, Birmingham’s 20-year-old left-arm spinner, took 4-23 to restrict Lahore to a total of 144-7 from their 20 overs. But, despite an impressive 27-ball 44 from England under-19’s star Aaron Thomason, Birmingham could only make 138-6 from their 20 overs.
Lahore will face Lancashire tomorrow, with the winner progressing to the final.
In between the two defeats for Birmingham, Durham were soundly beaten by Peshawar Zalmi. The PSL side won the toss and posted a solid 143-6 from their 20 overs.
The Jets wouldn’t even manage to bat out their overs. Paul Collingwood top-scored with 44, but Durham slipped from 59-0 to 108 all out. Peshawar’s Pakistan international Imran Khan took 5-24 as The Jets were bowled out with seven balls still to face.
Durham are in action again tomorrow against the MCC World XI, who feature the likes of Ben Duckett and Liam Plunkett in their ranks. At the same time, Lancashire and Lahore go head-to-head, before the MCC take on Peshawar Zalmi.
The two-day tournament will conclude with a final in the evening.
Some will claim, justifiably, that a T20 tournament in Dubai isn’t ideal preparation for the start of the County Championship season in two weeks’ time. Lancashire head to Essex and Warwickshire face Surrey at the Oval on April 7th. With the best will in the world, temperatures and conditions in Chelmsford or London won’t be Dubai-esque.
Durham begin life in Division Two, following their enforced relegation, with a home match against also-relegated Nottinghamshire on April 14th.