Paul Edwards is a freelance cricket writer. He has written for the Times, ESPNcricinfo, Wisden, Southport Visiter and other publications
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Lancashire 181 for 4 (Croft 61*, Vilas 55) beat Nottinghamshire 179 for 7 (Patel 45, Hartley 2-27)
The cricket ground at Stanley Park boasts no floodlights and this might be thought odd in a town famous for its illuminations. It meant that rather than the steamy enthusiasms and glooming light of an evening T20 match, the atmosphere at Blackpool this afternoon was more akin to a Bank Holiday jaunt. We lived for four hours or so in a world of cheek and sauciness and unless you left your inhibitions at the entrance, you were unlikely to have much fun. And the cricketers, ever sensitive to ambience, tried to respond in an appropriate fashion. Alex Hales snotted a couple of his first 11 balls over square leg for six before holing out off Tom Bailey, the suffering bowler, when attempting to hit a third. That should have set the tone for Nottinghamshire's innings but the visitors were to clear the ropes only once more before Dan Christian smashed Danny Lamb's last two balls of the innings over the leg-side boundary.
Rather than a smooth progression towards something above 200, Nottinghamshire's innings accelerated and stalled like a learner driver enduring a second lesson, and the visitors' eventual total of 179 for 6 barely looked sufficient, even against a home top order lacking Phil Salt and Liam Livingstone, two of its most brutal hitters. Such comforting thoughts among home supporters were happily justified. Dane Vilas, the Lancashire skipper, who had been critical of his side after Friday's defeat at Northampton, reached fifty off 24 balls and had put on 114 with Steven Croft when he skewed an off-side slash to Joe Clarke at deep point and departed for 55. In its way, that was useful, too, for it left Blackpool-born Croft to take most of the applause when the win was sealed with ten balls to spare. The Lancashire allrounder will be 38 in October and his Indian summer has lasted longer that the Raj itself. He is in the last year of his contract but his unbeaten 61 off 41 balls this afternoon was only the latest of his fine contributions this season and he is surely in line for another deal. Those in the pavilion who saw him learn his cricket on this field certainly think so.
All of this mattered - these are professional entertainers - but you felt that nothing could have spoiled the spirit of an occasion on which Donald McGill, the artist renowned for his risqué seaside postcards, would once have made a killing. In a similar era, but darker mood, Graham Greene relished it, too, the south coast in the late 1930s worlds away but not so far removed from Blackpool eight decades later. "The new silver paint sparkled on the piers, the cream houses ran away into the west like a pale Victorian water-colour; a race in miniature motors, a band playing, flower gardens in bloom below the front," wrote Greene on the opening page of Brighton Rock.
The weather played along, too. A grey, rain-flecked morning gave way to a blue afternoon and the drinks trays groaned under the weight of San Miguel, blackcurrant cider and Wainwright's Golden Ale. Long lines of thirsty customers had formed long before play began. Stanley Park has a steep grass bank above perhaps 80 yards of its boundary and children duly slid down it. There were queues for everything except decorum. "Froth me Silly - Hire me for your Event," suggested a coffee stall with ideas above its station. Some faces were painted while others burned; there were even a few knotted handkerchiefs on the heads of the ancients. The prosaic ones still called the ends "North" and "South" but "Parched Peas" and "Tower" are better names, even if the famous monument is at deep midwicket.
Nottinghamshire's cricketers, on the other hand, are unlikely to have such fond memories of a ground on which Lancashire will play Durham on Thursday. The home side will do so with their place in the quarter-finals almost secure if statistical precedent and the judgement of the Sage of Bacup is anything to go by. On the other hand, Liam Trevaskis's team are likely to offer a stiffer test than Lightning's opponents today. Having lost both Hales and Clarke in the Powerplay, Nottinghamshire reached 125 for 3 and were thus well placed for a late splurge when Samit Patel was complicit in the run out of Tom Moores before smacking Tom Hartley straight to Luke Wells at deep midwicket three balls later.
The fact that Patel top-scored with 45 is neither here nor there. Those two dismissals destroyed the momentum of his team's innings and they ensured they would post a total that was nowhere near sufficient on a good pitch. Hartley, Richard Gleeson and Wells all bowled their four overs for fewer than thirty runs and their accuracy helped to send Nottinghamshire to their fifth defeat in nine games. Christian's team have only seven points and will do well to qualify for the last eight now. They have coped well with such predicaments in previous seasons but will only do so this summer if their cricket improves markedly. No one identified Kolley Kibber at Blackpool today, but everyone knew who won.