Report: Lancashire Lightning v Birmingham Bears, NatWest T20 Blast

Report by Paul Edwards

Lancashire Lightning put their indifferent short-form season behind them when they defeated the Birmingham Bears by 30 runs in Friday’s final North Group match at Emirates Old Trafford. The defeat ended the Edgbaston side’s hopes of reaching the last eight of the competition while Lancashire’s chances, already gossamer-thin, were finally extinguished by Durham’s win at Chester-Le-Street.

After posting what seemed only a moderate 124 for five, albeit on a sluggish wicket, Lightning then restricted the Bears to 94 for eight in a game which produced an increasingly excited response from the 10,263 spectators.

Lancashire skipper Steven Croft opted to bat but his batsmen could at first make only very sedate progress on a slow wicket against a spin-dominated Birmingham attack.

Indeed, Lightning had advanced to a modest 45 for four after ten overs and no boundary was struck between the fourth and 14th overs as Ian Bell’s slower bowlers applied the pressure.

Almost every home batsman who attempted to force the early pace perished. Tom Smith was leg before for six in the third over when attempting to work a full-length ball from Rikki Clarke to leg and Karl Brown departed for just five eight balls later when he pulled Recordo Gordon to Laurie Evans at deep square leg.

Liam Livingstone made ten off 16 balls but was then bowled by Jeetan Patel when he came down the wicket to the off-spinner. In the next over Steven Croft had his leg stump knocked back when trying to clip a full-length ball from Josh Poysden to leg and Lancashire’s slow progress had the statisticians checking the county’s lowest short-form score.

The mood of the home crowd was not improved in the 14th over when Alviro Petersen, having batted carefully to make 27 off 33 balls skied the impressive Poysden to Bears skipper Ian Bell at cover.

That left Lancashire on 59 for five but it was the last home wicket to fall. Tom Moores and Jordan Clark proceeded cautiously at first but later unveiled some welcome aggression to add an unbroken 65 for the sixth wicket with Moores finishing on 39 not out off 32 balls and Clark making 31 off 18 balls, both batsmen hitting a six and two fours.

The pair scored 49 runs off the last five overs with Clark hitting all his boundaries off Clarke’s last over. Poysden was both the best and the most successful Bears bowler, finishing with two for 21 from his four overs, while Patel claimed one for 23 and Gordon one for 20.

The Bears pursuit of this target began moderately with Ian Bell caught off the glove for 13 when he could not cope with a fine ball from Saqib Mahmood and William Porterfield run out for five after a mix- up with Hain.

Hain and Matthew Wade then kept the scoreboard ticking over for seven overs albeit without seizing the initiative in decisive fashion and Lightning supporters got another boost when Hain was caught behind off Livingstone’s leg spin for 28 to leave his side on 61 for three in the 12th over.

Three balls later Wade was bowled by Croft for 16 when attempting to make room to cut and the Bears’ response stalled as the Lancashire spinners maintained a tight line.

With five overs to go the visitors needed 52 runs and their hopes received two grievous blows in the 17th over, bowled by Arron Lilley, when Laurie Evans was brilliantly caught at short fine leg for seven by a diving Tom Smith and, off the next ball,  Clarke was taken at deep midwicket by Livingstone for ten

The Bears’ later batsmen could not engineer a revival and Mahmood took two late wickets to finish with three for 12 off four overs, one of which was a maiden. The four Lancashire spinners conceded 64 runs from their 14 overs and took four wickets.