Northamptonshire fought to the final ball but went down in a tense Vitality Blast contest with Lancashire at Old Trafford.
The Steelbacks were disrupted by the late withdrawal of Australian Chris Lynn after the opener was forced to undergo minor surgery to resolve an emergency dental issue. Lynn’s absence offered a debut to 20-year-old legspinner Alex Russell, with Lewis McManus sharing opening duties with Ben Curran after Cobb won the toss and elected to bat on a slow, used pitch.
The Steelbacks moved to 53/1 after the powerplay, McManus the only man to fall to a yorker from former Steelback Richard Gleeson. Curran continued his bright start to the tournament, mixing tradition with innovation while Cobb showed his power hitting abilities at the other end.
The visitors’ attempts to accelerate were then frustrated by the loss of two wickets in successive overs. First Josh Cobb was caught at long on, then Ben Curran was bowled for 37 when attempting another of his productive reverse sweeps.
Northamptonshire were 81 for three with Keogh and Zaib finding it tricky to really force the issue and up the scoring rate on a sticky pitch.
The innings threatened to fade away but Zaib remained a constant as wickets fell at the other end. The left-hander posted a career best as he raised a first T20 half century in 36 balls and finished unbeaten on 57* as the Steelbacks took 24 from the final two overs.
Lancashire’s attempt to overhaul what looked a competitive total began poorly when Keaton Jennings was bowled by Taylor for two and the same bowler had Steven Croft well caught at point by Zaib for 10 after the Lancashire veteran had added 29 in 17 balls with Phil Salt.
The home side ended their Powerplay on 47 for two, six runs and one wicket worse than Northamptonshire had been. Lancashire’s attempts to increase the scoring rate were also hampered by the loss of wickets to the spinners. First when Livingstone’s top-edged sweep was caught by Taylor to give debutant Alex Russell his first senior wicket and then when Salt was leg before to Graeme White for 37.
Russell impressed throughout his four overs, restricting Lancashire with nine dot balls in figures of 1/27.
Three sixes by David enlivened home supporters and left Lancashire needing 48 off the final six overs, only for Dane Vilas to be caught on the boundary by White off Neesham for 32. Vilas’ team still needed 33 off four overs and then 23 off three but Luke Wells holed out at deep midwicket off Neesham and 18 were required off the final twelve balls, thus setting up the tense climax to a fine game.
Neesham finished with four for 26 but after two tough wide calls went against the Kiwi, Lancashire found a way home off the final ball of the innings.
The side now travel to Durham ahead of Sunday’s clash, Lynn remains with the squad.