Azharullah denies Faulkner at death
Northamptonshire 169 for 5 (Cobb 47, Parry 2-25) beat Lancashire 165 for 8 (Faulkner 73, Azharullah 3-28) by four runs
James Faulkner's 73 off 46 balls wasn't enough for Lancashire as they suffered defeat by just four runs to Northamptonshire in a highly entertaining Natwest T20 Blast encounter at Wantage Road. The Australia allrounder was caught chasing the winning runs off the final ball of the game as Lancashire finished on 165 for 5.
Azharullah was the finisher for Northamptonshire, as he defended 14 off the final over. Faulkner's ramp shot over the wicketkeeper's head off the second ball made it 10 wanted from four but Arron Lilley was run out off the penultimate ball chasing a second. With five needed from the last ball, Faulkner could only top edge into the air for Azharullah to gleefully take the catch and give Northamptonshire their third victory in four.
Put in by the visitors on a balmy Wantage Road night, Josh Cobb's two boundaries in the second over from Tom Bailey got Northants motoring - one a handsomely driven effort through cover, the next edged just beyond keeper Alex Davies. Bailey's over cost 16 and 13 followed from the next bowled by 18-year-old Saqib Mahmood.
With the home side 50 without loss after five, Lancashire captain Steven Croft turned to spin and brought on Steven Parry. The left-armer removed both openers in the space of three balls, Levi caught in the deep for 17 and Cobb trapped lbw for a rapid 47 off 33 balls.
Just 27 runs came from the second five overs as Parry, Steven Croft and then Lilley's spin tightened the screw. It was only when Steven Crook - against his former county - hammered two successive sixes off Croft that the shackles appeared to loosen.
Parry, who 18 months ago was part of England's World T20 squad, finished with 2 for 24. But Northants clattered 15 off the 18th from Mahmood and 13 off the last from Bailey to set a target of 170 for Lancashire to win. It seemed no more than par.
The visitors' reply suffered a major blow early on, as Ashwell Prince picked out Graeme White off his fellow South African Rory Kleinveldt in the third over. Azharullah induced a top edge to remove Brown cheaply two overs later and by the end of the Powerplay, Lancashire were 37 for 2. The wickets continued to fall with Livingstone and Croft following soon after.
Lancashire would need Faulkner to get them close and when he flayed two straight sixes in successive overs, a close finish looked on the cards. Alex Davies joined the party and scooped Olly Stone to the third man boundary.
More prodigious hitting from Faulkner followed in the 16th over, with Lancashire needing 63 from 30 balls. Crook saw two huge sixes slammed over his head, which was part of 17 claimed from the over. Davies's cameo produced three successive fours from Azharullah's 18th over before he missed a straight one and was bowled for 34 off 24 balls. Jordan Clark soon fell too and Faulkner was left with too much to do at the death.