Jos Buttler starred with 58 not out off 26 balls as Lancashire Lightning defeated reigning champions Northamptonshire 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 187/3 with a record equalling 22-ball fifty for the Lightning in this format before the Steelbacks struggled 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 3/2 before being bowled out for 134 with seven balls to spare.
Pakistani left-arm quick Khan finished with 3 for 16 from three overs. Matthew Spiegel’s 16-ball 32 was mere consolation.
Lancashire, are now joint North Division leaders with Worcestershire Rapids, have now won six of their first eight matches and already have one hand on a quarter final place.
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.
The ex-Somerset man smashed three fours and as many sixes, two of them over long on against left-arm spinner Graeme White in the 16th over, before reverse sweeping the pace of Olly Stone to third man for four in the 19th.
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 99/3.
Both partnerships for the second and fourth wickets were Lancashire records for matches versus the Steelbacks in this format. The last five overs of the innings cost Northants 69 runs.
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.
Ironically, David Sales, captaining the side in place of injured Kyle Coetzer, hit Kabir Ali for four, six and four in the over as the Steelbacks ended the powerplay at 30/2.
The visitors reached halfway at 55/3 following the departure of Sales - caught at long on - against off-spinner Arron Lilley in the ninth and their target of 135 off 60 balls looked like a big ask.
Left-arm spinner Stephen Parry had Steven Crook caught at long off in the 12th to leave the score at 71/4 before Lilley (2 for 28) trapped Rob Keogh lbw for 28 in the 13th with 74 on the board.
Ali had Ben Duckett caught at deep mid-wicket at the end of the 17th, to end a 50 run stand with Spriegel before he was run out by Prince from mid -off with the first ball of the 18th, bowled by Khan.
Khan yorked Middlebrook and Stone with the fourth and fifth balls of the next over before Ali had White caught at mid-off to finish things off.
Next up for the Steelbacks will be the Durham Jets here at the County Ground on Friday 27th June, as the hosts look to get their NatWest T20 Blast campaign back on track. Click here to purchase tickets.