Worcestershire Rapids sealed the first T20 Blast final spot thanks to a Ben Cox 50 bringing them back from 97-6 to score 169-6.
This total proved out of Lancs’ reach as 4-21 from top wicket-taker Pat Brown and a superior fielding display saw Worcestershire home at the ground of the fiercest rivals.
Three wickets in three balls spun the ball in Lancs’ favour in the first innings. Matt Parkinson had Moeen Ali caught at long off, then Brett D’Oliveira was run out without facing, before Zahir Khan had Fell stumped first ball of the next over.
Earlier Ali had started well, with help from some poor Lancashire fielding.
📢WORCESTERSHIRE RAPIDS WIN! 📢
See you later, lads #FinalsDay
Details: https://t.co/SzzuWgOdzS pic.twitter.com/r1H2Adnccn
— Vitality Blast (@VitalityBlast) September 15, 2018
A Jordan Clark misfield at short cover allowed Moeen Ali the first boundary of the day in the first over, followed by a much more assured shimmy and strike past mid-off for four.
23 off the third over changed things drastically, Ali going 46444 – Lancs’ skipper Livingstone getting the treatment.
James Faulkner bowled Joe Clarke for five first ball of the fourth giving Tom Fell his first ever bat in the T20 Blast.
Ali continued the charge, making up almost every piece of action in the powerplay highlights montage. Further mis-fields gave Worcestershire further boundaries off what should have been dot balls. The Rapids 56-1 at the end of the powerplay.
The post-powerplay introduction of spin-twins Parkinson and Khan spun the game on its head in the Red Rose’s favour. Ben Cox and Ross Whiteley were both at the crease before the halfway mark, the Rapids 75-4 after nine overs.
Neither spinner was giving much away, encapsulated by a Whiteley across the line heave which only struck air – Parkinson bowling the left-hander for four. The leg-spinner, many are tipping to join the England touring party in Sri Lanka, took 2-23, Khan taking a blow with 1-15 after three.
Clark came back into the attack and had Mitchell lbw for six. Surprisingly Livingstone opted for part-time seamer Keaton Jennings to bowl the 16th, Barnard scooped him for four, but the Test opener did manage to keep Worc to eight off the over.
Khan eventually got to bowl his fourth, but by this time Barnard’s improvisation mode was in full-flow; switch-hitting him for four.
This gave Cox ideas, thrice swiping Lester for six whilst also dabbing him for four in the 18th…27 off it – another game changing over.
Cox reached his 50 off 32 balls in the final over – a marvellous hand taking The Rapids much nearer to par than seemed possible when they were 97-6 after 14. They finished 169-6; Cox 55*, Barnard 28*.
Alex Davies nailed two boundaries through the offside from Luke Wood’s opening over. Running continued to be unnecessary for the Lancs’ openers – Livingstone emulating his partner by smoking two fours off Parnell’s first over.
The Blast’s leading wicket-taker Pat Brown continued to impress on the biggest stage – a tight first four balls prompted Davies to stupidly run himself out going back for a second that was never there, even with a dive.
Parnell, Wood and Brown continued to make scoring hard work for the Red Rose batsmen; but shackles were lifted by a four and two sixes off the South African in the fifth-the final ball landing on the roof of the Hollies Stand! Livingstone providing the first out-of-the-ground six of Finals Day.
Even Brown took some tap in the final powerplay over – Lancs reaching 55-1, one more than where Worcestershire were when extra fielders were allowed back.
Having got away with a similar shot earlier in the same over, on 30 Livingstone miscued a heave to backward point, Barnard the wicket-taker, 64-2.
Buttler only got to face one ball from England teammate Moeen Ali before Lilley fell lbw for 23 at the second consecutive appeal.
A period of playing one-self in ensued, but this achieved relatively little for one of the world’s greatest white-ball batsman – Ali won this personal battle, bowling Buttler for 12.
Jennings continued accumulating, gradually improving his strike rate in partnership with Clark until another moment of madness from Lancs saw Vilas run himself out for 13.
At the end of Moeen Ali’s spell of 2-16 with 11 dot balls, Lancs needed 44 from 24 balls with only five wickets in hand, and top-wicket-taker Brown had two overs to bowl. These Brown overs proved pivotal, disposing of Clark in his first and Faulkner and Lester in his second, effectively wrapping up the game in the 19th over.
Needing 29 off the last over Jennings got to his 50, but he couldn’t provide any last minute heroics, The Rapids won by 20 runs.