Former England one-day coach Ashley Giles made a triumphant return to Edgbaston as Lancashire won the NatWest Twenty20 Blast in front of a packed house at the Birmingham ground.
Having reached Finals Day six times and been runners-up twice, it was the first time Lancashire had won the domestic T20 competition – and it was also their first success in a one-day knock-out competition since they lifted the final 60-over NatWest Trophy at Lord’s in 1998, back when they were a powerhouse of limited-overs cricket.
Giles, a member of England’s 2005 Ashes-winning side, made his name as a coach at Edgbaston, where he was Warwickshire’s director of cricket for five years before joining the England coaching staff in 2012, winning the County Championship in is final season.
He joined Lancashire as Peter Moores’ successor in October last year and looks likely to mark his first season in charge at Old Trafford by winning promotion as Division Two champions along with this T20 success.
Lancashire successfully defended a total of 166 for 7 from their 20 overs in a final that at one time looked to be slipping away from them. They eventually won by 13 runs after underdogs Northamptonshire were restricted to 153 for 6.
Northamptonshire were seemingly well placed at 48 for 2 at the end of the six-over powerplay phase, despite having lost key men Richard Levi and David Willey to James Faulkner, the Australian all-rounder who was man of the match in the World Cup final earlier this year.
But on a slow pitch they were stifled in the middle of the innings as Lancashire’s trio of spinners turned the screw and thereafter were always struggling to keep up with the required run-rate.
A key moment came in the 18th over when veteran Pakistan star Shahid Afridi, recruited for the day, was caught at deep extra cover when he skied a slower ball from seamer Gavin Griffiths.
Even so, by reaching the final two years after winning the competition, Northamptonshire struck a blow for cricket’s counter-revolutionaries. The unfashionable Midlands county are one of those who would not be included if senior figures at the England and Wales Cricket Board have their way over the future shape of domestic T20 cricket.
ECB chief executive Tom Harrison will this week ask the 18 counties to consider plans to jettison the NatWest Blast in favour of a city-based T20 competition designed to rival the Indian Premier League and Australia’s Big Bash, although the idea is likely to be rejected..
In comparison with the semi-finals, notable for producing the first instance of both sides who were batting first failing to put 140 runs on the board, Lancashire were able to score rapidly after being inserted in the final.
They were 52 without loss at the end of the powerplay and had reached 77 in the ninth when Alex Davies, the 20-year-old who keeps wicket when Jos Buttler is otherwise engaged, played over a ball from legspinner Josh Cobb and was bowled. His 47 from 26 balls is his best score in this format.
The loss of four wickets in eight balls threatened to pull the rug from underneath them. Willey struck first as Buttler and then Ashwell Prince fell in the space of four deliveries, the England man finding the fielder at extra cover before Prince cut to backward point for 43.
In the following over Afridi, who had not played for three weeks and flew into England only on Friday, dismissed Faulkner, who drove him straight to extra over and, off the next ball, bowled Liam Livingstone with a googly through the gate.
That passage sapped Lancashire’s momentum and the last six overs added a modest 43 to the total. Yet it proved to be enough.
In the semi-finals, Northamptonshire progressed after another inspirational performance by Willey, who is soon to leave them for the Broad Acres of Yorkshire.
The 25-year-old England all-rounder, who is set to feature against Australia in the forthcoming one-day series, could not replicate the extraordinary 41-ball hundred against Sussex at Hove that had carried his side into finals day – it was never likely on such a turgidly slow pitch – but he was devastating with the ball this time.
With his first eight legitimate deliveries he accounted for Warwickshire’s top three batsmen, trapping Varun Chopra leg before with a swinging, full-length ball, splattering William Porterfield’s stumps and then finding the edge of Ian Bell’s bat with the second ball of his second over.
With Tim Ambrose gone too, caught and bowled by Rory Kleinveldt, Warwickshire were reeling at 14 for 4 and it was a position from which they never fully recovered, despite the efforts of Rikki Clarke and Ateeq Javid, who put on 93 for the fifth wicket.
Willey finished with 3 for 30 before Birmingham’s bowlers set about attempting in vain to defend 131.
The second semi-final was similarly lacking in excitement, Lancashire needing to chase only 116 to reach their second successive final as Hampshire crashed at the semi-final stage for the fourth year in succession.Reuse content