Overseas signings are a crucial part of any team’s hopes in the Vitality Blast. When Lancashire snapped up Glenn Maxwell for this season, they knew they’d landed one of – if not the – best in the world.
The Australian – nicknamed ‘The Big Show’ – certainly demonstrated that against Nottinghamshire. His innings was simply one of the best you could ever wish to see, one of intelligence, reliance, innovation and power.
He dragged the Lightning from a position of peril to a total that gave them a fighting chance at Old Trafford with a superb 73 from 46 balls, ably assisted by Dane Vilas’ 46 from 36.
In the end his efforts were enough to give Lancashire a total that they were able to defend – brilliantly so – as Matt Parkinson shone once again with the ball.
It was a first win for Lancashire against the Outlaws in the competition since 2011.
But things could not have started much worse for the Lightning, who came in to the match unbeaten at the top of the North Group with four wins from their six matches.
Luke Wood found early movement on a used wicket, jagging one back at both Alex Davies and Steven Croft – who both dragged on – to claim two wickets in the first over.
Liam Livingstone has been in belligerently brilliant form but was dismissed in frustrating fashion, as he was bowled for three while attempting to ramp Imad Wasim.
A power play of 23 for three was dismal for the hosts – who had won the toss – and Keaton Jennings departed for a scratchy 16 in the ninth over at 35 for four.
From there, a 107-run stand between Maxwell and captain Dane Vilas transformed the innings. It was a partnership of two halves. They realised how difficult things were for Lancashire and knew more quick wickets might kill their hopes. So it started in patient fashion.
Their half-century partnership came from 37 balls and Maxwell reached his 50 from 39 balls. They carried the hosts to 91 for four after 15 overs.
When the acceleration came, it was exhilarating to watch. 21 runs were plundered from the 17th and 18th overs as Maxwell began to attack, scooping Wood for four and six.
Maxwell was afforded a bizarre let-off as he picked out Joe Clarke in the deep, but he ducked out of the way having lost the ball in the lights. The pair then smashed Wasim for 20 in the 19th over. Both departed in the final over, claimed by Harry Gurney, but they had done their job. 85 came from the last eight overs.
In a quirk of the match, both innings started with a wicket as Joe Clarke was trapped lbw by Richard Gleeson to begin the chase, just as Davies fell first ball in Lancashire’s innings.
Ben Duckett also departed in the Powerplay but the visitors found runs easy to come by, moving to 46 for two after six.
Alex Hales looked in good touch, but fell for 29 in the eighth over. Lancashire kept picking up wickets at key intervals, and began to slash away at the heart of the chase. Three wickets fell for five runs in 12 balls as Tom Moores, Samit Patel and Imad Wasim all departed.
Parkinson, who claimed four wickets against Durham on Friday, was at it again taking three for 22. In the process he became the fastest Lancashire bowler to 50 T20 wickets.
Notts were 103 for six after 15 overs, but Parkinson removed Wood and Lancashire appeared to have the game in the bag with 33 needed from 12 balls. But Dan Christian fired his side back into the match with three sixes from Saqib Mahmood, to leave 12 runs required from the last.
James Faulkner showed his quality and experience at the death, dismissing Matt Carter and Zak Chappell to secure the win. Maxwell was at it again in the field – claiming four catches, the most every in a T20 innings for a Lancashire player.
In a statistical subplot, Lancashire extended their advantage over Notts as the top two English T20 sides.
Lancashire came into this clash at Old Trafford as the third best Twenty20 side in the world – in terms of number of wins – and now have 109 victories, trailing Mumbai Indians by nine and Chennai Super Kings by six.
Notts are the second best English side with 106 wins. Both teams, though, have only won the competition once, with Lancashire in particular failing to convert 11 quarter-finals into silverware.
There can’t have been too many Lancashire sides stronger than this one, though. They appear to have all bases covered and will fancy another trip to Edgbaston.