A spirited chase from Ashwell Prince‘s Lancashire wasn’t enough to turn around their run of bad luck in finals. Gareth Stevens reports.
Lancashire have lost three finals and 11 semi-finals since 1998, but they were in with a shout of capturing the T20 Blast crown until the final delivery of Saturday’s final in Birmingham. Unfortunately, they fell at the last hurdle once again.
The hosts won the toss and decided to bat first. Led by a Laurie Evans half-century, Birmingham would have felt confident at the break with runs on the board. They had posted 181-5 in their 20 overs and with the added pressure of a final, it would be a tough task for the visitors.
Ashwell Prince got the reply off to a good start with 30 off 24 balls, before England international Boyd Rankin disturbed his furniture. Karl Brown took over from Prince in the middle overs and struck 55 off just 28 deliveries to keep Lancashire in contention.
The stage had been set for Andrew Flintoff to reaffirm his status as a hero, five years after retiring from Test cricket. He had rolled back the years by taking Ian Bell’s wicket with his very first delivery of the match and had hit consecutive sixes in the penultimate over of the chase.
It seemed as if the script had been written, just like one of Flintoff’s reality television episodes, with 14 runs required for victory off the final over. Chris Woakes was given the responsibility to defend the target and he spoiled Lancashire’s party by holding his nerve and hitting the popping crease consistently. The final over went for nine, giving the hosts a four-run victory.
England’s new all-rounder had won the duel with one of the greats of the game, and in the process, handed Birmingham the T20 Blast title for the first time. It was a hugely disappointing result for Flintoff’s supporters, but maybe it was a symbolic passing of the baton from one England all-rounder to the next.