Lancashire Lightning's miserable run in the Royal London Cup continued as they lost their third match in a row in the competition in a high-scoring contest against Northants Steelbacks at Liverpool.
Northants chased down the target of 325, their highest-ever score in 50-over cricket.
A well-crafted unbeaten century by Northants captain Alex Wakely piloted his side to their first win in this year’s Royal London O Cup and condemned Lancashire to anogther defeat, a position from which Steven Croft’s team will find it immensely difficult to qualify for the quarter-finals.
Needing 325 to win this 50-over match at Aigburth, the Steelbacks reached their target with 20 balls to spare and with six wickets in hand. Wakely was 109 not out when the win was confirmed by Adam Rossington’s four and six off Liam Livingstone and never during their pursuit of Lancashire’s target had the visitors appeared seriously discomfited.
That this was so was partly due to Richard Levi, who bludgeoned twelve boundaries in his 46-ball 62, and helped Northants reach three figures inside 15 overs. When Levi had holed out to mid on Ryan McLaren off Jordan Clark, Rob Newton continued the assault but was caught by Alex Davies off Tom Bailey for 44 when the score was 125.
With Josh Cobb having been Anderson’s first victim in the second over of the innings, Northants’ reply was interestingly poised but Wakely and Rob Keogh then put the game beyond Lancashire’s reach with a 152-run fourth-wicket stand in 23 overs.
Wakely survived a stumping chance on 24 when Davies failed to gather the ball and was also dropped by the Lancashire keeper when he inside-edged a very difficult chance off Anderson, the resulting boundary taking him to his 42-ball fifty.
From then on it was the plainest of sailing on the calmest of seas for the Northants batsmen as they put Lancashire’s total into perspective on a very hard, very true pitch. Wakely reached his century having hit 12 fours and faced 92 balls. Keogh played on to Anderson when he had made 69 five overs before the close but that was of little more than statistical importance. The game had been all but settled long before.
Earlier in the day four batsmen had made fifties in Lancashire’s total and the most crucial was that of Jordan Clark who finished the innings with 76 not out off 51 balls and took 24 runs off Nathan Buck’s final six balls. Clark’s fine knock included eight fours and two sixes and it placed on the finishing touches to a recovery which saw Lightning recover from 94 for five in the 19th over when Steven Croft was superbly caught at the wicket by Rossington off Muhammad Azharullah for 19
The fightback was begun by Dane Vilas and McLaren who put on 86 for the sixth wicket before Vilas cut Ben Sanderson toNewton on the point boundary and departed plainly angry with himself despite having batted with considerable responsibility for his 47-ball 61.
Vilas and McLaren’s partnership was a List A record for Lancashire’s sixth wicket against Northamptonshire and a similar mark was established for the seventh wicket by McLaren and Clark’s 108-run stand, which was only ended when McLaren hoisted Azharullah high to long on where Steven Crook took a fine running catch.
Some of the Northants’ bowling figures hardly reflected the merit of their earlier efforts, most notably in the first twenty overs of the innings when Lancashire lost five prime wickets. That early period in the game was marked by Karl Brown’s stylish 58 off 47 balls and including 11 boundaries, but it also saw Davies caught at the wicket for a first-ball nought off Sanderson in the opening over and Haseeb Hameed caught at backward point by Graeme White off Buck for nine.
When Livingstone fell into Azharullah’s none too subtle trap and hooked a short ball straight to substitute fielder, Saif Zaib at deep backward square leg Lancashire were 77 for four and a total in excess of 300 appeared a distant objective. Azharullah was the most successful Steelbacks bowler with three for 55 but White sent down ten overs of left-arm spin at a cost of 47 runs and Sanderson took two good wickets before coming in for some late punishment.