• Matthew Whiley

Match Report: Lancashire Lightning v Yorkshire Vikings, 17/07/21

Lancashire Lightning 131-6 (19.0 overs) defeated Yorkshire Vikings 128-7 (20 overs) by four wickets

Luke Wood snared four scalps as Lancashire Lightning eked out a four-wicket win over rivals Yorkshire Vikings to emerge victorious in the Roses clash at Old Trafford and reach the T20 Blast quarter-finals.

After the Vikings had won the toss and opted to bat, Wood returned figures of four for 20 as the Lightning attack strangled the visitors throughout their innings, with 32 from Joe Root and Gary Ballance’s 31 the top scores.

Luke Wells and Steven Croft then added 54 for the sixth wicket to lead a recovery following a wobble, although a distinct moment of controversy did occur when Croft slipped attempting a single from the bowler’s end.

He collapsed in what looked like significant pain, and despite being well short of his ground, the Vikings opted not to run him out, and he was unbeaten on 26 when the Lightning reached their target with an over to spare.

Earlier, the hosts got off to a flier when Wood removed both Yorkshire openers in his first over, seeing Adam Lyth spectacularly held by wicketkeeper Dane Vilas and bowling Mark Stoneman, to leave the Vikings 11 for two.

Yorkshire’s fortunes improved a little with captain Joe Root and the Blast’s leading run-scorer Harry Brook at the crease, but they still looked out of sorts during the powerplay, hitting only 27 runs off it.

Brook was bowled for 22 by Luke Wells in the eleventh over as the Lightning continued to apply the pressure, although Gary Ballance stroked Wells for 14 off his third over to release some of it.

However, it immediately returned when Joe Root was caught by Vilas off Liam Hurt to end his sedate 37-ball stay, and at 94 for four after 16 overs, the Vikings were in need of some power hitting.

Ballance did club Wood for four to bring up three figures in the 17th over, but he was then bowled next ball, before the seamer took his fourth scalp when he caught Jordan Thompson first ball off his own bowling.

Some late hitting from Will Fraine took the visitors’ scoring rate past a run a ball, but there was little doubting which dressing room would have been the happier at the innings break.

Finn Allen caressed Matt Fisher’s opening delivery for four and slammed Lyth for two colossal sixes as the Lightning began their chase in style, reaching 35 without loss in just two overs.

However, the Vikings fought back when Keaton Jennings (15 off 9) was pouched by Root at mid-on off Waite and Allen was bowled by Fisher for 22 off 8.

Despite the additional loss of Alex Davies, the hosts did continue to score quickly, reaching 57 for three at the end of the powerplay, but another clatter swung the game potentially back into the balance.

Dom Bess removed Rob Jones, caught on the boundary by Fisher, and Yorkshire captain Root snared his counterpart Vilas, held by Harry Duke behind the stumps, as Lancashire slipped to 64 for five in the eighth over.

They were steadied by Wells and Croft, reaching the halfway point without any further loss and requiring another 54, and the low required rate afforded them the freedom to take few risks.

Wells struck six down the ground off Root, and Croft followed suit off Lyth as the Lightning neared their target, although controversy then struck Old Trafford.

Play was held up as the home physio treated Croft for a bout of cramp in his hamstring after slipping, and once his issues had subsided, the umpires decreed that the ball would be re-bowled, with Croft not retiring nor calling for a runner.

Had Yorkshire opted to take the bails off at the striker’s end, Croft would have been significantly short of his ground, but they did claim a sixth scalp when Waite removed Wells for 30 with 11 needed.

However, Wells’ replacement Danny Lamb then struck back-to-back fours off Fisher’s final two deliveries, as he finished unbeaten on 11 off 4 to secure victory for his side.

Wood the spearhead, but entire Lightning attack fires

The hard, fast pitch at Old Trafford has always suited T20 cricket, with the ball coming quickly onto the bat, and returning Vikings skipper Joe Root saw something he liked, opting to bat first after winning the toss.

With the sun also beaming down, conditions seemed ideal for the visitors to post a challenging total, but the home attack had other ideas.

From the moment Steven Croft conceded just five off his opening over, the Lightning bowled incredibly well, hardly offering Yorkshire anything to hit.

Luke Wood will naturally get the headlines, as he made an instant impact with two wickets in his first over and two more across his other three to finish with career-best figures.

However, a depleted Lightning attack, that would otherwise have featured leg-spinner Matt Parkinson and express quick Saqib Mahmood, worked magnificently as a unit.

Liam Hurt was impressive, and claimed the key wicket of Root in his one for 27 from four, having recovered from a start which saw him bowl an enormous no ball in his first over.

Wells, Croft, and Tom Hartley were given twirling duties in the absence of Parkinson, and the latter kept things especially tight, conceding just 16 from his three overs.

The impact of those three, who returned combined figures of one for 63 from nine overs, was crucial to ensuring the competition’s leading run-scorer Harry Brook was unable to produce his usual pyrotechnics.

Only twice did Yorkshire take ten or more runs off an over, with the Lightning’s stellar bowling performance ultimately what won them the game, as had the Vikings added 30 or perhaps even 20 more, things could have been very different.

Controversy abounds over Croft injury

When Steven Croft slipped over attempting a quick single from the bowler’s end in the 18th over of Lancashire’s chase, Yorkshire had a golden opportunity to break a partnership of 50 with Croft well short of his ground.

However, upon Croft collapsing, he clutched his hamstring and appeared in real pain, resulting in the Vikings fielders making the decision to leave the striker’s end bails intact.

Croft was treated on the field for what turned out to be a bout of cramp, and once he had recovered, he went on to make 26 not out in his side’s victory.

There was much discussion and debate over the visitors’ decision in the minutes and hours following, with Sky Sports pundits Mark Butcher and Rob Key notably having an on-air disagreement.

Cricket prides itself on sporting behaviour and fair play – it does, after all, give its name to a well known idiom decrying when something is unfair: “it’s just not cricket.”

However, the fact that such events unfolded in a match between two of the biggest rivals in domestic cricket means the decision to be sporting comes under the spotlight far more.

Essentially, it sets up a deep debate that strikes at the heart of sport - what is more important? Upholding the spirit of the game, or winning the game?

It could easily be argued that Yorkshire did the former in good faith, and Croft did not repay that faith, or conversely that Yorkshire were naïve and should have completed the job, with Croft’s cramp misfortune part and parcel of elite sport.

Quarter-final spots decided

Having completed 12 of their 14 games, Derbyshire Falcons played no further part in this year’s T20 Blast after a slew of self-isolation orders on their players following a squad member testing positive for Covid-19.

That meant that different teams played different numbers of games, with the Falcons themselves only playing 12, alongside Northamptonshire Steelbacks and the Vikings playing 13.

As a result, the North Group was decided on points per game to even out the differences, with both the Vikings and the Lightning heading through, in addition to Notts Outlaws and Birmingham Bears.

Meanwhile, there were no such issues in the South Group, leaving that to be decided on points alone, and heading through from that group are Kent Spitfires, Somerset, Hampshire Hawks, and Sussex Sharks.

The quarter finals are as scheduled:

Tuesday 24 August: Yorkshire Vikings v Sussex Sharks

Wednesday 25 August: Notts Outlaws v Hampshire Hawks

Thursday 26 August: Somerset v Lancashire Lightning

Friday 27 August: Kent Spitfires v Birmingham Bears

Yorkshire v Sussex, although technically a home tie for the Vikings, will be played at Durham’s Emirates Riverside ground due to the third England v India Test match being hosted by Headingley at the same time.

The ties will take place from Tuesday 24 to Friday 27 August, with Finals Day to be played at its regular home of Edgbaston on 18 September.

Player ratings

Lancashire Lightning: Allen 8, Jennings 7, Davies 6, Vilas*+ 7, Croft 7, Jones 6, Wells 8, Wood 9, Lamb 7, Hartley 7, Hurt 7.

Yorkshire Vikings: Stoneman 5, Lyth 5, Root* 8, Brook 7, Ballance 8, Fraine 7, Thompson 6, Bess 7, Waite 8, Duke+ 6, Fisher 6.


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