Vital win for Lancashire over Worcestershire ignites Blast qualification quest
Career bests for Rob Jones and Tom Hartley boosted Lancashire’s Vitality Blast quarter-final hopes with a battling 34-run win over Worcestershire at Emirates Old Trafford.
The Lightning’s fourth win in 10 North Group games moved them above the Rapids into fifth place via run-rate and just a point outside the top four.
Unbeaten Jones top-scored with 49 off 33 balls in Lancashire’s 159 for six after they elected to bat, with the 25-year-old steering a recovery from a mid-innings stutter.
Left-arm spinner Hartley, 23, then returned a brilliant four for 16 as Worcestershire were bowled out for 125 with nine balls remaining.
Openers Finn Allen and Keaton Jennings, the latter with 34, shared a streaky 52 inside the power play on a pitch used for Lancashire women’s victory over Ireland in the afternoon.
Ed Barnard tipped a Jennings pull for six off Dillon Pennington in the second over before three miscued aerial shots narrowly evaded fielders.
The Rapids prevented a boundary for 45 balls between the eighth and 15th overs.
New Zealand leg-spinner Ish Sodhi returned one for 24 from four overs, removing Jennings, and overseas colleague Ben Dwarshuis and Pennington struck twice apiece.
Australian left-arm seamer Dwarshuis had Steven Croft caught behind and Luke Wells caught at long-on in the 17th over, leaving the Lightning 122 for six.
But busy Jones and former Rapid loanee Luke Wood hit late sixes as 30 runs came off the last two overs, including 20 off the last from Charlie Morris.
Lancashire built on that momentum as Worcestershire fell to 36 for three in the sixth over of their chase.
Saqib Mahmood had Brett D’Oliveira brilliantly caught low down at cover by Wells in the second over - a wicket maiden - before getting Jake Libby caught off a miscue in the fifth.
Hartley then bowled Daryl Mitchell. But his key contribution came with the 10th over’s first two balls as he had Riki Wessels caught and bowled and Ross Whiteley lbw, leaving the visitors on the ropes at 59 for five.
He later had Ed Barnard caught at deep square-leg to record the third-best figures by a Lancashire spinner in Blast history - 81 for six in the 14th.
Ben Cox’s meaty 36 briefly threatened a revival but it was game over when he was bowled charging at Matthew Parkinson in the 16th, 106 for seven.
Mahmood then yorked Sodhi and Morris in the penultimate over to finish with four for 25 from 3.3 overs.
Hartley said: “It was up there with one of the best nights. We didn’t get a high total but the pitch wasn’t there for a 200 score.
"We bowled well and the power play was excellent. We restricted them all the way through.
“We thought the pitch would be a bit better, and with a short boundary one one side we thought we could get a high score. But we saw the way they bowled and we thought we could do better than that.
“We were pretty confident with 160 to defend, to be honest with you. After the power play, it was all one way. To get a few wickets and to be on a hat-trick was good.”
Lancashire face second-placed Yorkshire at Emerald Headingley tonight.