Lancashire into final as spin dominates in poor spectacle
Lancashire 119 for 4 (Brown 45*, Briggs 2-19) beat Hampshire 115 (Vince 69, Faulkner 3-29, Parry 3-21) by six wickets
English cricket's three-for-one Finals Day provided entertainment in the second semi-final worthy of the supermarket discount bin. The pitch was stodgy, it was apparent from the outset that intelligent bowling could clamp down on scoring rates, and those Twenty20 fans who want their entertainment identified by an adrenalin rush of boundaries, which is most, will have grimaced with disappointment.
Lancashire only needed 116 in a contest defined by missed sweeps, drag-ons and heaves into the leg-side that will not feature on a bat manufacturer's promotional video. It was a slightly troubled chase, James Faulkner defiantly putting it to bed with two successive leg-side sixes off Chris Wood, the only sixes off the match. The margin: six wickets with seven balls to spare.
For the fourth successive time at Edgbaston, Hampshire lost in the semi-finals. They have tried changing hotels, travelling at different times. Cricketers being a superstitious lot, lucky underwear will no doubt have been binned. But it was not down to luck, it was down to an inability to adapt to a slow surface, all the more surprising as they regularly combat similar pitches, designed to their strengths, on their home turf at the Ageas Bowl.
It did not help that the second match took place after the home side, Birmingham Bears, had been knocked out in the semi-final and a sense of disappointment hung over the ground. It did not help that the rhythm of T20 is somewhat lost in the gap between the group stages and the final (although time is clearly needed to sell tickets), but Hampshire's innings lacked energy and wit: it was disappointing fare.
James Vince, a batsman of some quality, acquitted himself considerably better than anybody. He was eager to show his prowess on a big day, having been omitted from England's 50-over squad once again. He could play on this Finals Day pitch, justifying his decision to bat upon winning the toss. It was just that not many other Hampshire batsmen could.
Vince made 69 out of 115 and, having opened, was out to the second ball of the last over, a skied top-edge which fell to the wicketkeeper Jos Buttler as he tried to heave Faulkner into the leg side. He was dropped on 45, too, by Buttler off the offspin of Steven Croft, but generally, his thought processes and execution were faultless.
Around him, others fared less well. George Edwards has not been a regular for Lancashire this season in any format, but the wickets of Michael Carberry, who spliced to mid-off, not imagining his 13 would be the second top score, and Adam Wheater, first ball, athletically held by Buttler down the leg side, set Lancashire motoring.
It was a scenario that Lancashire's spin pair of Stephen Parry and Arron Lilley could not resist. They entered the final against Northamptonshire with 40 wickets between them and economy rates below seven, their effectiveness in T20 bearing comparison with Faulkner, and there is no higher praise than that.
Parry found sharp turn to bowl Owais Shah as he came down the pitch and defeated Sean Ervine and Liam Dawson on the sweep. Lilley bowled Wood to a swipe and Yasir Arafat to one of several drag-ons in the match. Their combined tally of 5 for 32 in eight overs, with Vince watching with growing consternation, ensured Lancashire had a cakewalk.
Vince chose not to bowl his spinners in the Powerplay, for understandable reasons, but by the end of the six overs Lancashire were 43 for 1, the chase all but broken, before Danny Briggs and Will Smith had a chance to respond. Keith Brown's unbeaten 45 from 43 balls ensured the opportunity was not shunned. Buttler perished at long-off, telling himself as he went, no doubt, that he could still make an impact in the final.
Hampshire even tried dismissing a Lancashire batsman by pushing him away from the crease, not a dismissal not yet included in the MCC Laws. It was an incident that could have created a major flashpoint, instead to cricket's credit it just became a curio.
Davies, on 3, scooped a catch to mid-on and with everybody seeming strangely oblivious to the no-ball call from Rob Bailey (a marginal decision by an umpire who rightly still believes giving no-balls is part of his job, unlike many of those standing in the Ashes) he made little attempt to make his ground. Vince, who was rapidly becoming the only Hampshire player with common sense, took off a bail, but an appeal for a run out was not really on when two Hampshire players were manhandling Davies to the pavilion.
David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps