Lancashire progress after dramatic tie
Lancashire 142 for 6 (Prince 62, Buttler 53, Coles 3-22) tied with Kent 142 (Parry 3-31)
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
In an atmosphere which was at times not far removed from that of a very well-attended village fete in the garden of England, some northern guests had the temerity to spoil Kent's big day. Lancashire's cricketers, skilled at winning T20 matches but abysmal when it comes to securing the trophy itself, will appear at their sixth Finals Day after they beat Kent by virtue of losing fewer wickets after the sides managed 142 apiece off their 20 overs.
Towards the end of a T20 campaign in which they had lost the close games, Lancashire finally won one, although the irony was that the contest should not have been tight at all. Needing 13 off the last two overs, the visitors managed to lose three wickets in nine balls, including that of Ashwell Prince for 62 and Jos Buttler for a marvellous 37-ball 53 as he was attempted to hit the straight six that would have won the match.
Instead of that happy outcome for the small but noisy group of Lancashire fans, the diehards were left with the delicious agony of watching James Faulkner scramble a couple of twos off the last two balls of the match. Predictable delight and despair followed, depending upon the loyalties of those whose nerves had all but snapped with the tension of it all. For a moment the majority of the 7000 capacity crowd seemed confused but eventually the facts dawned on them. There was to be no super over. Kent were out and Lancashire will play Hampshire in the semi-final at Edgbaston. If these players and supporters did not love cricket in their bones, they might hate it with a passion.
The architecture of this remarkable contest was fairly simple. The match was played on a slow pitch, on which only Buttler with his reverse sweeps and siege-gun sixes, found run scoring even slightly easy. In these conditions Kent were unable to set anything more than the modest total which Lancashire were just about capable of matching, if not quite chasing down. They managed this despite the heroic efforts of a Kent attack which was led by Matt Coles but which also included the niggardly James Tredwell and Darren Stevens.
The ambience of Kent's first innings was almost as notable as the events of which it was composed. On the afternoon when they wanted to find all their best melodies, Kent's top order hit a series of duff notes. Daniel Bell-Drummond and Joe Denly added 25 for the first wicket in 4.2 overs before both fell to successive balls from Kyle Jarvis, Bell-Drummond skying to Brown at cover and Denly nicking a good ball to Buttler. The next five wickets were collected by Lancashire's spinners Stephen Parry and Arron Lilley as Kent collapsed from 53 for 2 to 86 for 7 in 34 balls.
Parry took three wickets but Lilley bowled the better spells, conceding just 21 runs off his four overs and removing both Sam Northeast and Alex Blake with flat balls to which the pair were leg-before. The atmosphere during this subsidence and, indeed, during much of the match, was a trifle muted. "We want to see you and hear you, bang those clappies!" Northeast had exhorted the home supporters on the big screen but Lancastrian voices were as clearly heard as Kentish ones until that final over, when many Lancashire supporters had either passed out or passed away.
Quarter-finals, at Chelmsford for example, are often raucous, sweaty, fevered affairs in which the visitors are almost prey. Yet Kent, a little to their credit one might argue, managed to push Lancashire to the limit while only rarely abandoning the civilised enthusiastic atmosphere for which one of English cricket's sacred spaces is rightly famous.
Panamas were nearly as much in evidence as those odd hairy head-bands which have proliferated throughout the T20 game this season. Even the few chants taunting Faulkner's drink-driving conviction were gently done, as though a Women's Institute had been asked to bash out a few rugby songs. On the big screen one lucky spectator was even challenged to beat Northeast in a competition to name as many vegetables as possible in 30 seconds
The crowd did eventually find its voice as Fabian Cowdrey and Tredwell added 42 in nearly six overs, Tredwell top-scoring with an unbeaten 31 and taking 16 runs off a Faulkner over. Nevertheless, a Kent innings in which Tredwell gets the most runs is unlikely to set a formidable total and Croft's players must have been quietly satisfied at the interval.
Their happiness probably grew during the first 18 overs of the Lancashire innings when the loss of Alex Davies and Karl Brown cheaply were offset by the steady accumulation of runs by Prince, who knows how to time a run-chase, and Buttler, who can hit the ball very hard. It looked plain coasting on calm seas but it did not prove so.
So Croft's boys go through. As was the pattern for over 600 years before the invention of Twenty20 cricket, they had travelled "to Caunterbury with ful devout corage". Indeed, given that the coach journey from Manchester to Ashford on Friday took eight-and-a half hours, some even argued that Chaucer's pilgrims could have got to the St Lawrence ground more quickly. But their courage just about got them home, and even at Canterbury, there was nothing that even a Cowdrey could do about it.