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Buttler bludgeons Lancashire to victory

Jos Buttler starred as Lancashire Lightning mauled champions Northants Steelbacks by 53 runs at Emirates Old Trafford to continue their excellent start to this summer's NatWest T20 Blast.

The explosive England limited-overs wicketkeeper-batsman led his side to an imposing 187 for three with a record equalling 22-ball fifty for the Lightning in this format before the Steelbacks floundered in reply.

Two wickets, including the run out of Richard Levi, went down to successive deliveries from Junaid Khan in the second over of the chase as they slipped to three for two before being bowled out for 134 with seven balls to spare.

Pakistan left-arm quick Junaid finished with 3-16 from three overs. Matt Spriegel's 16-ball 32 was mere consolation.

Lancashire, joint North Group leaders with Worcestershire, have now won six of their first eight matches and are closing in on a quarter-final place.

After in-form opener Tom Smith had skied David Willey to mid-off in the second over of the match following Paul Horton's decision to bat, Ashwell Prince and Karl Brown shared 90 in 10.3 overs for the second wicket.

Opener Prince hit 43 and Brown 46 - both men favoured backing away to leg and carving over the off side - before falling to successive James Middlebrook deliveries at the start of the 13th over, leaving the score at 99 for three.

But Buttler shared an unbroken 88 in 7.4 overs for the fourth wicket with Steven Croft, who finished with 29 not out off 20 balls in his 95th consecutive Twenty20 match, equalling the English record set by former Leicestershire wicketkeeper Paul Nixon.

Buttler smashed three fours and as many sixes, two of them over long-on off slow left-armer Graeme White in the 16th over, before reverse sweeping Olly Stone to third man for four in the 19th. He ended with 58 not out off 26 balls.

The loss of Levi, run out by a direct hit from Prince in the covers, and Willey, bowled by Khan, put the skids under the Steelbacks, who did not post a boundary until the sixth over.

The visitors reached halfway at 55 for three following the departure of David Sales - caught at long on - against off-spinner Arron Lilley in the ninth and their target of 135 off 60 balls looked all but impossible.

That proved to be the case as regular wickets tumbled, with Kabir Ali having White caught at mid-off to end the Steelbacks' misery.

"Obviously to contribute to a win was pleasing," said man-of-the-match Buttler.

"It was a really good team performance, and we've been really tough to beat at home. We're joint top. Worcester won as well. We're in a really good position.

"We've been going really well. We've played quite a lot of games at home, which is a real strength of ours. We've got a good formula here. We need to continue that form when we go away, and we've got a really big game (against Yorkshire Vikings) at Headingley next week.

"Junaid's a superstar in Twenty20 for us. It's brilliant to be able to throw him the ball and know exactly what you're going to get."

Northants, by contrast, were left pondering how to turn things around.

"This year we've not got on a roll," said Spriegel. "It's very much a momentum game, Twenty20, and we're on the bad side of it at the moment.

"It was a good wicket. It was starting to spin a little bit but it was a good wicket.

"I'm not sure it was a 190 wicket. They had a couple of big overs towards the end where Buttler and Croft put on a good partnership after we got a couple of quick wickets.

"If we'd been able to restrict them to 165, we were very much in the game. But when you lose the big two, Dave and Rich, up top, it's always going to be tricky for the guys coming in."

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