Lancashire Lightning gave their hopes of a Natwest T20 Blast final place a massive boost, as they beat the Birmingham Bears by 8 runs at Edgbaston. Largely due to an exceptional performance from their skipper, Steven Croft who scored an unbeaten 64 with the bat, before claiming two wickets and taking a superb catch.
The Bears won the toss and put Lancashire into bat, on a slow pitch with some variable bounce. The Bears were quickly on top, reducing Lancashire to 37-4 off eight overs. It was at this point the Lightning staged a mini- recovery as Steven Croft, who started slowly, and Luke Procter put on 41 for the fifth wicket, before Patel bowled Procter for 20. Patel was the pick of the Bears bowlers, as he again showed his limited overs class to finish with figures of 4-0-14-2.
Having been at 44-4 off ten overs, it was a monumental effort to reach 145-6, this was largely down to Croft, who finished on 64 off 51 balls. Though he was helped by Procter and James Faulkner who both made quick 20s, as the Bears failed to regain the control in the second half of the innings. Recordo Gordon and Oliver Hannon- Dalby were particularly expensive, as despite an early wicket for the pair of them, they both went for 40+ from their four over spells.
The Bears would have been confident going into their chase, especially with Brendon McCullum returning to the ground where he made 158* against Derbyshire. And they got off to a decent start, going to 44-1 off the first six overs, losing just Chopra, who spooned one to cover off Jarvis. McCullum in particular was looking in ominous form, with Tom Lewis playing the supporting role.
But disaster struck for the Bears as Croft continued his match winning display, bringing himself into the attack to remove Lewis and McCullum in consecutive balls to reduce the Bears to 72-3. And from this point none of the Bears batsmen were able to make telling contributions, as the Lightning took wickets at regular intervals on a pitch that seemed to suit a more pace- off orientated attack.
Laurie Evans struggled to get going making 13 off 18 before flashing at a wide one off Faulkner, and Croft again was in the limelight as he took a stunning one- handed catch at point to dismiss him. Ateeq Javid and Tim Ambrose also both made it into double figures, but were unable to make telling scores being removed for 18 and 11 respectively. Faulkner and Croft both bowled well to claim five wickets between them, going for just 35 runs off their combined eight overs.
Going into their final over the Bears still needed 19 with one wicket remaining, and despite a huge six from Hannon- Dalby eventually they came up short by eight runs. With Hannon- Dalby top edging one off the penultimate ball of the innings, to be caught by Faulkner, as the Bears were all out for 137.
An important victory for Lancashire Lightning, who now took set to claim a place in the quarter finals. Though the Bears, still top the North group should be confident going into their home tie against Northamptonshire Steelbacks on Wednesday, needing just one win from their last two to ensure a home quarter final.
All image credit to Ed Bagnall.