Lancashire secure home quarter final
Lancashire 225 for 7 (Brown 58, Prince 56) beat Derbyshire 190 for 7 (Madsen 45, North 41) by 35 runs
George Orwell, who knew a bit about cricket, might have enjoyed watching Lancashire's cricketers this season. He could have adapted his famous slogan from Animal Farm to assess their performances. Twenty overs, good; four days, bad, rather sums up Old Trafford's campaign so far.
Friday's final home game in the NatWest T20 Blast did nothing to disprove the judgement. A procession of Lancashire batsmen enjoyed themselves on a firm pitch to pile up 225 for 7, the highest short-form total ever recorded on the ground.
Derbyshire's batsmen were no slouches either, mind. Both Marcus North and Wayne Madsen made enterprising forties as balls again sailed over the short boundary on the Stretford side straight into the stand being constructed for the forthcoming Test against India.
Ultimately, though, an asking rate of more than 11 runs proved to be too stiff a challenge for Madsen's batsmen and Lancashire duly secured a home quarter-final with something to spare.
This was a ninth victory in 13 T20 games for Paul Horton's team and they look a very confident side when either facing or bowling a white ball. No doubt the diehards in the pavilion hope that such assurance will be passed on to their displays in the final four County Championship matches.
There were few refuges available for Derbyshire's bowlers in the first half of the game. Both Ashwell Prince and Karl Brown made rapid fifties, the South African's half-century off 22 balls joining Tom Smith and Jos Buttler's efforts as the quickest for Lancashire in the short form.
Quite what Ben Cotton made of it all, one can only guess. The young Derbyshire seamer was making his first team debut and his four overs cost 49 runs as the home side rattled up 102 for 2 in ten overs. The tone for the innings had been set.
Wickets did not bring that much relief. Lancashire were able to send out a series of batsmen prepared to push the ball around or, preferably, clout it miles. After Prince and Brown had added 89 in only 7.5 overs, Buttler whacked 39 off 23 deliveries and even when Derbyshire enjoyed success, claiming five wickets in 22 balls late in the innings for example, the flow of runs was unstemmed.
Nothing summed up Lancashire's strengths so clearly as the innings of Horton, who came in at No 9. Lancashire's captain hit three sixes in a seven-ball innings of 24. Mark Turner's three wickets cost him 51 runs.
Yet it says something for Derbyshire's players that their spirit was not broken by the home side's batting on a steamy night in front of a vociferous, 8,000-strong crowd. They had long since lost any chance of qualifying for the quarter-finals of this year's T20 but they racked up 97 runs in the first half of the innings and it is a hard game when such a rate is insufficient.
North's dismissal, lbw to Steven Croft for 41 in the 11th over was plainly a blow to their hopes and when Madsen was safely caught at deep midwicket by Smith off Wayne White their chances of achieving a remarkable victory were gone.
There was, though, delight for connoisseurs of peculiar dismissals when David Wainwright was bowled by Wayne White for 2, and the match ended with Junaid Khan sending down his last overs for Lancashire this season. Junaid will be significant loss for the quarter final but it says something for Lancashire's many skills and strengths in this form of the game that the absence of Andrew Flintoff, who missed the match with a calf strain, was barely noticed.