Croft and Brown ignite Lancashire
Lancashire 169 for 3 (Croft 76*, Brown 67) beat Derbyshire 149 for 5 (Moore 40, Ali 3-27) by 20 runs
The last time Glen Chapple's Lancashire side won a T20 match at the County Ground was in 2009. They had VVS Laxman and Faf du Plessis in their line-up and were carried to victory by a blistering career-best 93 from a certain Andrew Flintoff. Tonight they had record fourth-wicket pair and half-centurions Steven Croft and Karl Brown to thank for ending a run of three losses and a tie here.
Going back a couple of weeks, you would have got pretty short odds on Flintoff playing in this clash with talk of his return to the game reaching a crescendo. A badly sprained ankle in fielding practice put paid to that idea, although the chances of him playing later in the competition are still just about alive. He could play 2nd XI cricket next week.
Lancashire also had Gareth Cross behind the stumps when they last won here and were approximately six months away from signing Stephen Moore from Worcestershire. Both men played for the opposition tonight and, although Moore hit 40 off 35 balls, the task of chasing down 170 was just too stiff. Limited-overs expert Kabir Ali finished with 3 for 27 from four overs to secure a 20-run victory.
Rain delayed the start by 45 minutes, reducing the match to 19 overs per side, and Derbyshire started well by removing Tom Smith, Alex Davies and visiting captain Paul Horton early on to reduce the score 38 for 3.
However, Brown and Croft, both shifted down the order to No. 3 and 5 respectively, produced some Flintoff-esque power hitting as they shared an unbroken 131 inside 14 overs, a Lancashire record for that wicket in this format. They plundered 77 in the last 36 balls of the innings and both brought up their fifties with a six.
While Brown's unbeaten 67 off 50 balls represented a career-best score, Croft's 76 off 52 was his best T20 score in a Lancashire shirt since 2010 and was a reminder of his qualities following a frustrating season and a quarter in all forms, which has included losing the responsibility of stand-in captain when Chapple does not play. That is now the job of official vice-captain Horton.
Horton employed seven bowlers in the first eight overs of Derbyshire's chase and it was a tactic that worked despite not signalling a flurry of early wickets. Moore struggled with his timing early on as Lancashire controlled things.
In truth, Derbyshire never really got going and when Moore and Marcus North, another former Lancashire player, both fell in the space of eight balls in the eleventh and 12th overs to leave the score at 88 for 3, it was realistically game over with the run rate escalating beyond two runs per ball.
Ali struck twice in the closing stages before Junaid Khan comfortably defended 26 off the last over to give their side the perfect pick-me-up ahead of Sunday's crucial Roses Championship match against Yorkshire.