LANCASHIRE gave themselves a fighting chance of qualifying from Group A of the Benson and Hedges Cup with a comfortable victory made possible by an explosion of runs from Wasim Akram, whose unbeaten 89 transformed his side's innings.
The former Pakistan captain helped Lancashire score 117 off their final 10 overs, finishing with an astonishing sequence that brought him 56 runs from 14 balls faced, including 46 from 10 deliveries in the last two overs.
The construction workers milling about in front of the Radcliffe Road grandstand were grateful for their headgear as two straight sixes off Alex Wharf sailed into the hard hat zone but there was possibly a greater need for protection on the upper deck of the Parr Stand, which Wasim hit three times in the last over as Andy Oram got the treatment.
John Crawley and Andrew Flintoff had given the innings substance by putting on 91 for the second wicket, Flintoff contributing a lusty 46 and Crawley, let off on three when Jason Gallian - his former Old Trafford team-mate - spilled a slip catch, building a careful 81 from 114 balls.
Wasim's innings spanned just 43 balls, containing six sixes and eight fours. It was his best score in the B&H and timely too after a middle- order slump.
It left Nottinghamshire needing ro score what would have been their best total in the competition and although they started well, Paul Pollard, well taken by Warren Hegg, and Gallian failed to live up to early promise.
Things really fell apart when Paul Johnson, their captain, undone when Gary Yates found some extra bounce, lobbed a gentle catch to backward point. From 177 for 3, his side crashed rapidly to 203 for 6 as Glen Chapple claimed three wickets in the space of four overs including Mathew Dowman, who complied 82 from 101 balls.
Lancashire innings was actually about two former international captains, the extraordinary exploits of Wasim having been preceded by another dreadful day for Michael Atherton.
He made no attempt to disguise his disappointment after he was leg-before to Mark Bowen and his trudge back to the pavilion seemed to take up more time than his innings, which lasted four deliveries. So far this season, six Atherton innings have yielded 85 runs.
Lancashire play Northamptonshire tomorrow and with three sides on six points in Group A, qualification may well come down to run-rate.
l Durham qualified for the Benson and Hedges Cup quarter-finals for the first time yesterday when they beat Worcestershire at New Road.