Tight matches thrill fans around the country
The latest round of Twenty20 matches provided some of the tightest matches yet, to the delight of the crowds who jammed into the grounds all around the country.
Lancashire and Leicestershire's match, for example, went down to the wire at Grace Road, with Lancashire emerging triumphant thanks to Steven Croft's last-ball four. Tight bowling from the young trio of Simon Marshall, Tom Smith and Oliver Newby, who each grabbed two wickets, left Leicestershire defending a target of just 161. But their own bowlers did a tidy job, Stuart Broad removing Mal Loye early on, yet it wasn't to be. Stuart Law led Lancashire's innings with 58 from 40 balls to set up the win.
At Bristol, Gloucestershire's bowlers kept their nerve against Worcestershire to record their first win of this year's tournament with a thrilling one-run victory. Gareth Batty took three wickets and Roger Sillence bagged a brace to restrict Gloucestershire to 181 for 7, with Chris Taylor topscoring with 61. But after Carl Greenidge snaffled the bighitting Graeme Hick for a second-ball duck, the Gloucestershire attack didn't let up and, although Batty and Sillence nearly proved heroes with the bat at the end, they failed to get the runs they needed.
But the tightest match of all was a tied game between Northants and Somerset at Northampton. After choosing to bat Somerset lost wickets regularly - two of them to Sourav Ganguly - until they crawled to 151 for 9. But if Northants thought they had an easy chase on their hands, particularly when Usman Afzaal was going great guns from the off, they were wrong. Richard Johnson and Charl Willoughby pegged them back with two wickets each and when the destructive Lance Klusener was run out for 7 the tide had turned in Somerset's favour. Afzaal (67*) took Northants close and shared an unbeaten stand of 50 with Andrew White, but it was just not enough.
Only at The Rose Bowl was the result never in doubt, as Middlesex slumped to a second successive defeat, this time by 59 runs. Mike Carberry biffed 90 to boost Hampshire to 225 for 2 and Dominic Thornely added an unbeaten 50. Middlesex's batsmen never really got going and by the time Paul Weekes had blasted 49 from the middle order, the momentum - and the match - was firmly with Hampshire.