Player of the Match
Player of the Match

Birmingham ousted as Lancs take low-scoring tussle

Lancashire 124 for 5 (Moores 39*, Clark 31*) beat Birmingham 94 for 8 (Mahmood 3-12, LIlley 2-21) by 30 runs

Precisely eleven months since they danced and sang on the Edgbaston outfield after winning last year's NatWest T20 Blast, Lancashire's cricketers went into their final group match with coach Ashley Giles voicing the hope they could "upset the party" of the Birmingham Bears, his former side, who needed a win to be certain of reaching the last eight.

By the end of a fine and rather fascinating match, Giles could argue that he had achieved his modest objective with a 30-run victory, albeit that both eliminated teams were left dancing round their handbags in the kitchen while "Agadoo" played on a continuous loop.

Lancashire had needed either a washout or a tie at Chester-le-Street if they were to qualify and the joy which inspired their victory song was surely tinged with the knowledge that they had squandered their short-form opportunities earlier in the season.

For their part, having restricted Lancashire to 59 for 5 in the 14th over Birmingham allowed their hosts to amass 124 for 5 and the Bears then failed by a distance to chase down that score on a slow pitch

Both these teams could echo the impassioned regret of Billy Bigelow in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Carousel: they had both let their golden chances pass them by.

None of which should detract from the enjoyment eventually derived by most of the 10,263 spectators, Lancashire second-biggest T20 crowd, from this slow-burner of a short-form game in which the home batsmen had struggled painfully in the opening overs against an accurate Bears attack. Only four boundaries were struck in the opening 13.3 overs, all of them in the powerplay. Like a drunk trying to unlock his front door, each Lancashire batsman searched for the correct opening without ever quite finding it.

Josh Poysden took a couple of wickets and was the pick of the Bears attack but he had finished his four-over spell when Tom Moores and Jordan Clark launched a late counter-attack, each batsman hitting two fours and a six in their 65-run stand for the sixth wicket. Having sat rather quietly, at least by T20 standards, the crowd responded warmly to this fine cricket and to the inventive excellence of 19-year-old Moores, who yet again looked like the sort of cricketer you want by your side in a scrap.

By the mid-innings break it was clear that Lancashire had posted a defendable total. Who knows, perhaps the enraged supporter who had suggested earlier in the evening that the entire county club should be disbanded was now supporting it be reformed. All the same, no one knew then that Moores's unbeaten 39 would be the highest score of the match or that Clark's 31 not out would be the second best.

That this was so can be explained partly by the failure of the Bears batsmen to adapt their strokeplay on this sluggish wicket, one perfectly at odds with the sort of wicket generally recommended for T20 cricket. But Lancashire's victory was also a tribute to the work of their four spinners, none of whom went for many. Indeed, Croft conceded 12 runs from his four overs but he was only the leader of a slow bowling quartet, including Stephen Parry, Arron Lilley and Liam Livingstone, who sent down 16 overs of twisters yet conceded only 64 runs and took four wickets.

Given these difficulties Birmingham probably needed Bell to play one of his classier innings but he was undone by a fine ball from Saqib Mahmood which he could only glove to Moores; the visitors could also have done without the run out of William Porterfield, who ran on a misfield but was sent back by Sam Hain and beaten by Parry's throw. Having made a modest 57 for two after ten overs, Birmingham lost wickets steadily thereafter, including that of Hain, caught behind off Livingstone for 28 and Matthew Wade bowled by Croft for 16. No other batsmen threatened to change the game.

Excellent catches at short fine leg and deep midwicket by Tom Smith and Livingstone removed Laurie Evans and Rikki Clark in the 17th over, bowled by Lilley, but by then Birmingham needed a salvo of shots they had never really looked likely to fire. The very promising right-arm seamer Mahmood grabbed a couple more wickets and finished with 3 for 12.

So there will be a party at Edgbaston next month but the hosts will not be present. Their lager will taste flat tonight while Lancashire can take the consolation of victory from what has been an annoying season. Immediate pleasure may be replaced by deeper professional irritations and suddenly it must seem more than eleven months since they paid homage to Bacchus at Edgbaston. They were happy in the haze of that hour but they must wait another season for a chance to repeat such frolics.

Warwickshire 2nd innings Partnerships

1st18IR BellSR Hain
2nd15WTS PorterfieldSR Hain
3rd28MS WadeSR Hain
4th2R ClarkeMS Wade
5th17R ClarkeLJ Evans
6th0R ClarkeA Javid
7th5JS PatelA Javid
8th7JS PatelRO Gordon
9th2JS PatelJE Poysden