Croft powers Lancashire to quarter-finals
Lancashire 198 for 6 beat Worcestershire 191for 7 by seven runs
Steven Croft carried Lancashire into the Friends Provident t20 quarter-finals on the back of a tense seven-run win against Worcestershire at New Road. With Croft making 88 from 52 balls, Lancashire piled up 198 for 6 - their biggest total of the campaign - but they were stretched to the limit when Moeen Ali launched a blistering counter-attack with 72 from 39 deliveries.
Even when the left-hander was caught on the boundary off Gary Keedy after hitting eight fours and four sixes, the Royals kept up their chase until finishing tantalisingly short on 191 for 7. It was a cruel blow to finish bottom of the North Group despite giving third-placed Lancashire a major fright.
Needing 23 from the last two overs, they were finally tamed when Sajid Mahmood took two wickets in five balls - including James Cameron for 26 - and the task was too much when Tom Smith bowled Daryl Mitchell for 39.
A pre-match skydiving display by the Red Devils was followed by an even swifter descent for Worcestershire as they entered their final match without an overseas player. Phil Jaques missed the last two games after returning to Australia and Sri Lanka veteran Sanath Jayasuriya was released after a defeat by Warwickshire ended any hopes of qualifying for the knockout stage.
An inexperienced team was powerless to stem the flow of runs despite an early glimmer of encouragement when Imran Arif bowled former New Road team-mate Stephen Moore for 10 in the fourth over.
Lancashire's response was little short of brutal. While Croft hit 10 fours and four sixes, Smith went past 500 runs in this season's competition with a power-packed 40 during a stand of 81 in six overs.
Left-arm spinner Shaaiq Choudhry managed to stem the flow, bowling Smith in the midst of a relatively economical spell, but Croft charged on after a let-off when he was caught off a no-ball on 43.
Nathan McCullum drove Choudhry for two sixes before top-edging Jack Shantry and the left-arm seamer also removed Croft with a smart catch by wicketkeeper Ben Cox.