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North Group (N), Manchester, June 26, 2015, NatWest t20 Blast
(20 ov, T:138) 136/8

Warwickshire won by 1 run

Player Of The Match

Birmingham start in a jam, Lancashire end in one

Liam Livingstone's penultimate ball heave for six leaving Lancashire requiring three from the final delivery but he was run out off the last delivery

George Dobell
George Dobell
Birmingham 137 for 8 (Chopra 40) beat Lancashire 136 for 8 (Faulkner 34, Gordon 4-20) by one run
It was the sort of night where it paid to take it slowly.
After an accident on M6 stretched Birmingham's journey time above six hours - this game started half-an-hour late as a result - the teams found themselves playing this match on a dry, used pitch that rewarded spinners, cutters and bowlers who take pace off the ball.
Perhaps it rewarded patience, too. A game that, by T20 standards, dragged for long portions - Birmingham hit only five fours after the first 37 balls of their innings - eventually rose to an exciting conclusion with Liam Livingstone's penultimate ball heave for six leaving Lancashire requiring three from the final delivery. A mis-hit drive straight to mid-off resulted in a run-out as the batsmen attempted an almost impossible second to secure the tie.
Victory, their 12th in 14 completed T20 games, takes Birmingham top of the table, though only three points separate the top four. Lancashire have now lost five of their nine T20 games this season. Only Middlesex and Derbyshire have lost more.
But it seems a shame that a high-profile game - these sides were last year's finalists and this game was televised - should be played on a pitch that did so little to encourage attacking strokeplay.
Not that there is not a certain value - and charm - to these low-scoring contests. There will be times, in Asia in particular, when England teams play on such surfaces and the next World T20 is in India. Perhaps such matches offer perfect preparation.
But was it the sort of surface to attract new spectators to the game? And isn't that the point of T20 cricket? After an ODI series drenched in boundaries appeared to have revived interest in the sport, it was hard to avoid the conclusion that this was another own-goal by domestic cricket.
It is not necessarily the groundsman's fault. The huge amount of cricket required from their squares renders it almost inevitable that pitches will be reused and reduces the amount of preparation time for each track. Television coverage might also have been relevant here: cameras set-up for the ODI - played on the same pitch - would not have to have been moved by using the same surface. Perhaps there is something to be said for playing more games at out grounds?
Bearing in mind the surface, it was particularly impressive that a young fast bowler should scoop his second Man-of-the-Match award in succession. Like all fast bowlers, 23-year-old Recordo Gordon loves to bowl with pace. But here, realising that such a tactic would be self-defeating, he unveiled a range of cutters and slowers balls - including a particularly good slower ball bouncer - that left batsmen struggling to pick up his length or settle against him. A haul of 4 for 20 was reward for an admirably mature, calm and skilful performance.
Gordon also hit the only six of the Birmingham innings. Bearing in mind the margin of victory, it proved an important contribution.
Winning the toss helped Birmingham. By the time Lancashire realised what sort of surface they were playing on, Birmingham had plundered 49 from the Powerplay with Brendon McCullum, on debut, thumping three successive boundaries and helping contribute to the highest partnership of the match. Varun Chopra's 40 and Willaim Porterfield's 36 were the highest individual scores of the game.
But once Lancashire's three spinners came into play, run-scoring became far more difficult. They delivered 12 of the next 14 overs and Birmingham never again scored more than eight from an over and added only 50 in their final eight overs. Stephen Parry, England's seemingly forgotten left-arm spinner, was particularly impressive in conceding just 19 from his four overs; reward for his control and his excellent variations.
While the target appeared modest, Lancashire rarely looked as if they would overhaul it. Paul Horton was run out after a hesitation, Ashwell Prince carved straight to the fielder and Steven Croft slog-swept to deep backward square. Although James Faulkner, who added 39 with Jordan Clark, looked as if he might power Lancashire to victory, his drive to mid-off made life extremely tough.
Birmingham, confidence soaring from their run of success, have become expert at applying pressure in the field, with the young legspinner, Josh Poysden, complementing the reliable Jeetan Patel.
Lancashire might reflect that their fielding cost them, by comparison to Birmingham, half-a-dozen runs. It was a fault highlighted by their coach, Ashley Giles, early in the tournament and, while it has improved, it remains some way below the current T20 champions. In games decided by such small margins, it is a crucial factor.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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