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Lightning ride past Rapids

By Liam Blackburn

Tom Smith and Paul Horton ripped apart Worcestershire Rapids' attack to kick-start Lancashire Lightning's NatWest T20 Blast campaign under the floodlights at Emirates Old Trafford.

The hosts clocked up an impressive 194 for three - the second-highest score in this season's fledgling competition - and, despite an admirable chase, their opponents fell short on 182 for five and were defeated by 12 runs.

Smith and Horton built a 138-run alliance, a third-wicket record in the sprint format for the Red Rose, the former top-scoring with 74 and his captain carrying his bat for just three runs fewer.

Worcestershire had, like their hosts, suffered defeat in last night's opening round of fixtures and, although the likes of Richard Oliver and Colin Munro provided temporary fireworks with respective scores of 34 and 39, nobody was able to emulate Smith and Horton's heroics.

In the Rapids' reply, Moeen Ali made 11 yet did not see out Steven Croft's first over after going for one big shot too many and picking out Karl Brown before Tom Kohler-Cadmore, promoted up the order, shone in a brief 25 before becoming James Anderson's first victim as Stephen Parry held on to an over-the-shoulder chance at fine-leg.

Lancashire skipper Paul Horton reverse-sweeps on his way to an unbeaten 71 from 43 balls against Worcestershire

Oliver smashed 43 on debut the previous night against Durham Jets and his fearless attitude continued. The Rapids newcomer racked up eight fours in yesterday's season opener and maintained his love of boundaries with a pair of early maximums, the pick of which saw him nonchalantly swipe Anderson to the square-leg fence.

Jordan Clark gave him a reprieve when he lost a chance in the air which almost hit him in the head. Oliver's fun would end, though, with Arron Lilley rearranging his stumps to leave the visitors three down.

However, the Rapids' relentless approach carried on apace courtesy of Munro's inventive thinking. It was more luck than innovation which did for captain Daryl Mitchell as he departed for 19 off Clark's bowling when Parry snaffled his hoist into the sky with one hand after initially spilling the ball behind him. 

Clark and Anderson applied the brakes and the former struck again to remove Munro, who chipped into Horton's hands to leave the visitors five down and facing a big chase that would ultimately allude them.

After inserting Nottinghamshire Outlaws and falling short of their 182, 24 hours earlier, the hosts had elected to bat first when the flip of a coin favoured them once more.

Birthday-boy Brown and Smith made a start befitting of their Lightning nickname with a barrage of boundaries bringing up 50 inside five overs.

Tom Smith belts a game-high 74 and combined in a decisive 128-run partnership with his skipper Paul Horton

Yet the Rapids would live up to their own moniker with a couple of quick wickets as Charles Morris' switch of ends paid dividends. He found extra bounce to send back Brown and the scoreless Croft within the space of three balls, both batsmen finding Ben Cox behind the stumps to leave the Red Rose 55 for two.

Lancashire experienced a mid-innings lull until Horton took a fancy to opposing captain Mitchell, highlighted by his meaty sweep for six into the second tier of the Statham End.

Horton and Smith stormed to the second fifty partnership of the afternoon before the latter pipped his skipper to the first half-century of Lancashire's Twenty20 campaign by swatting Ross Whiteley past mid-off for four.

Horton passed 50 too with the first of successive deft flicks over his head for four and the third-wicket stand swiftly moved into three figures off 62 deliveries.

Cox squandered chances to stump Horton and run out Smith before finally dismissing the opener for 74 when he was left stranded down the track by Saeed Ajmal's spin.

Jos Buttler had little more than an over to provide an exclamation mark but he finished the innings off with a four to take him to an unbeaten 10 and Lancashire to a total their opponents would not quite match.

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