There were not many pundits tipping Lancashire to be among the contenders before this years’ Vitality Blast began. Since winning the competition in 2015 they have failed to progress to the knockout stages in any white-ball competition and there seemed many sides better equipped to be challenging for a place at Finals Day.
However with a group of dangerous spinners and experienced batsmen Lancashire qualified third from the North Group, despite a mid-tournament wobble, before defeating Kent in the quarter-finals.
In the first of a series looking at how all four teams got to Finals Day, we pick out five crucial matches which helped Lancashire reach Edgbaston.
Roses Thriller – Lancashire Lightning 176-2 beat Yorkshire Vikings 175-4 by one run.
Lancashire’s campaign began with a disappointing defeat to their semi-final opponents on Saturday, Worcestershire. However what followed was five consecutive victories that took the Lightning to the top of the North Group.
The final game in that run was a quite wonderful Roses clash in front of over 22,000 people at Old Trafford. The rain had threatened to curtail the occasion, but a 14 overs per side contest was eventually possible and arguably the game of the tournament was played out.
Liam Livingstone stuck 79 from just 37 balls as Lancashire posted a huge 176-2 from their allotted overs. Yorkshire kept themselves in the game requiring 17 from the final over, and Joe Root who finished on 51 from 22 deliveries almost got them there but Toby Lester held his nerve to send a capacity crowd delirious into the Manchester night. Winning tight games such as this will stand the Red Rose in good stead come Finals Day.
Durham Disaster – Durham Jets 154-7 beat Lancashire Lightning 150-9 by 4 runs.
It may seem odd to include a loss on this list but such was the manner of this defeat and the subsequent reaction from Lancashire this match against Durham was possibly the turning point in their campaign.
Chasing just 155 to win, just six were needed from as many balls mainly thanks to 53 from Alex Davies and a run of three games without a win seemed destined to come to an end.
Though extraordinarily Lancashire lost three wickets to the spin of Liam Trevaskis in the final over to fall short of their target by four runs. The loss left them down in fourth and all their good work at the start of the tournament was starting to unravel.
It was reported following the game that some harsh words were spoken in the Old Trafford dressing room, and whilst tasting defeat is never an enjoyable experience the nature of this one seemed to spring Glenn Chapple’s men back into life.
Headingley Heroics – Lancashire Lightning 185-4 beat Yorkshire Diamonds 181-9 by 6 wickets.
A trip to Headingley was the fixture following the Durham disappointment, a ground which Lancashire had only won once on in their last seven completed T20 matches played there. A record which seemed unlikely to improve as Yorkshire raced to 130-1 inside 12 overs.
However the dismissal of David Willey for 80 instigated a collapse as the hosts slumped to 181-9. A challenging total but one that Lancashire’s top order made light work of. Karl Brown top scored 51 but there were also valuable contributions from Alex Davies and Arron Lilley as the target was chased down comfortably.
A comprehensive victory which must be considered Lancashire’s best performance of the tournament due to their poor previous performances at Headingley and their form which had come before it. No doubt a win that saw the Red Rose rediscover their mojo.
YESSSS!! LANCASHIRE WIN! 🌹🌹🌹🌹
The visitors have completed a @VitalityBlast double over Roses rivals Yorkshire by six wickets at Headingley this evening!!
🌹 #RedRoseTogether pic.twitter.com/YOiyvlTv0g
— Lancashire Cricket (@lancscricket) August 9, 2018
Bears Tamed – Lancashire Lightning 185-5 beat Birmingham Bears 148 all out by 37 runs.
The evening after the win over their biggest rivals, the Lightning welcomed the Birmingham Bears to Old Trafford, a team trailing them by two points in the North Group and desperately in need of a win of their to keep their qualification hopes alive.
They ran into a Lancashire side clearly back at their best though. Karl Brown was again the pick of the batsmen with 61 in a total of 185-5. The run chase saw the Bears recover from three early wickets to 71-3 but Matt Parkinson ripped apart their middle-order taking three wickets as they fell to 75-6 and the game was all but over.
James Faulkner also claimed three scalps as Birmingham were eventually bowled out for 148. The win for Lancashire pretty much eliminating their opponents from the tournament with their own hopes severely boosted. Victory over Durham in the next game would follow and a place in the quarter-finals was secured.
Canterbury Conquerors – Lancashire Lightning 134-4 beat Kent Spitifires by 6 wickets.
Defeat in their final group game at Edgbaston meant Lancashire faced a tricky trip to Canterbury in the first of the quarter-finals. Kent had only lost twice in the South Group, on both occasions to Gloucestershire, so were going to provide a formidable test on their own ground.
Though if you had asked Lancashire what kind of wicket they would have wanted that evening then it would have been exactly the one prepared. There was turn from the start and the ball gripped in the surface throughout the game. Matt Parkinson took another three wickets and Zahir Khan also proved difficult to get away.
Kent could only muster a score of 133-9, a target which looked well under par. As many Lancashire fans will know though, their side never make it easy for themselves.
The returning Jos Buttler was out for a first ball duck and although Keaton Jennings anchored the innings with 46, 18 runs were still needed from 13 balls.
Jordan Clark would be the one to settle any nerves though as he hit Mitchell Claydon for six off the final ball of the 18th over. Two further boundaries would follow in the 19th and a place at Finals Day was in the bag.