Red rose rise to second
Lancashire went above opponents Middlesex, who were without Eoin Morgan due to travel delays, to second in Clydesdale Bank 40 Group A courtesy of a seven-wicket win in a rain-hit game at Old Trafford.
Steven Croft and Karl Brown shared a decisive stand of 79 in 10 overs shortly before the hosts reached a revised target of 97 from 15 with 10 balls to spare.
Croft struck 45 from 35 deliveries and Brown was unbeaten on 36 from 32 as Lancashire equalled Middlesex’s eight points. Tonight’s win separates the teams who are three points behind the Netherlands, although the Lightning have three matches in hand to the Panthers’ one.
Left-arm spinner Stephen Parry was the chief destroyer with a limited-overs best 4-21 from four overs and the visitors owed much to a 36-ball 48 from opening batsman Dawid Malan in reaching 97 for eight from 16.
Morgan travelled from London to Manchester by train, but had to go via York after the direct service from Euston was cancelled. He had not arrived by the toss and Ollie Rayner took his place.
Rain initially taunted the players, who were out in the middle for the scheduled 4:40pm start - after the hosts chose to bowl - but were forced off without a ball bowled.
They returned for a 32-over game at 6pm, yet only 2.3 were possible before another downpour sent them scurrying again at four without loss.
Play resumed at 8pm with the overs down to 18 each and Malan began brightly, following a pulled four with a straight six off Glen Chapple.
Parry was soon introduced and took advantage of a tight over from Tom Smith by having Joe Denly stumped. He also had Paul Stirling caught behind in his next.
Malan responded by pulling Ajmal Shahzad over the midwicket rope and reverse-sweeping the seamer for four shortly before Croft could not hold a sharp chance off the left-hander at point.
Malan did not last much longer, holing out to long-on off Shahzad, and Steven Crook also fell in the deep in the next over, bowled by Gary Keedy.
Another frugal over, from Parry, yielded a wicket in the next as Neil Dexter was caught on the pull off Smith.
Three fell in the last as Middlesex tried to hit out against Parry. Rayner missed a wild swipe to be bowled for 14, John Simpson located long-on and Gareth Berg was run out. A Duckworth/Lewis revision left Lancashire needing 103 from 16 overs.
Toby Roland-Jones struck in the first over of the reply when Stephen Moore miscued a pull to mid-on, but fellow opener Smith immediately got going with an elegant clipped four off his hips.
With drizzle falling, Smith’s second boundary came via a similar shot. However, he paid on 11 for trying to repeat it off the economical Crook thanks to Berg’s sharp right-handed take.
Croft had scares when he narrowly cleared mid-on and, on five, survived a difficult chance at long-on put down by substitute Ollie Wilkin.
Brown’s first four came via a carve through backward point and he punished consecutive loose balls from Smith with a leg-side six and four.
Stirling came in for punishment after a brief rain interruption, which wiped out an over, Croft picking up four to deep square-leg and Brown down the ground.
With 10 overs bowled and a result certain, Brown put his side ahead of the required rate with a huge maximum over long-on immediately followed by an edged four - both off Berg.
Sharp running from the second-wicket duo yielded a the fifty partnership and Croft swept Malan for four to make victory all but certain.
Just two were needed when Croft hit a one-bounce four over mid-on off Dexter only to pick out short third-man next ball. Back-to-back wides later in the over brought an anticlimactic end to proceedings.