Keaton Jennings’ six and out leaves Lancashire and Notts tied at the last

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Lancashire conspire to fall short of victory despite opener’s 88

Lancashire 172 for 4 (Jennings 88, Allen 60) tied with Nottinghamshire 172 (Moores 48, Lamb 3-23)

An afternoon on which Lancashire had sought to raise awareness of men’s health concluded in a fashion that will have done nothing for the blood pressure or heart rates of most of the 4500 spectators at Emirates Old Trafford.

“So much, so mundane,” might come the weary reply from people reading about this tie. This is T20, after all, a format where last-over finishes are almost de rigueur and in which winning a match with three balls to spare equates to coasting home. Perhaps so, but when Lancashire needed eight off the final two deliveries of the game, a fair proportion of the crowd will have been wondering how they had contrived to balls up their pursuit of 173, especially so given that openers Keaton Jennings and Finn Allen had put on 118 in less than 13 overs before Allen skied Samit Patel to Joe Clarke at long-off and departed for 60.

Bowling the final over was Luke Fletcher, a man whose loyalties are simple and deep; he would be among the crowd supporting Notts if he did not play for them. Fletcher conceded four runs off the first four balls of that final over but his fifth was a knee-high full toss that Jennings whacked gratefully into the crowd in the temporary stand Lancashire have built for bigger occasions than this. With all three results now possible yet none of them an odds-on favourite, Jennings squeezed the next ball into the covers where the Notts skipper Steven Mullaney ran round to field. One run was easy but a second was an impossibility unless Mullaney fainted or Tom Moores failed to collect the ball.

Jennings nearly collided with the bowler as he turned for the second run. That is never a wise move – Fletcher was built by the same firm that did the Eiger – but he was far short of his ground when Moores broke the stumps. Suddenly there was that sense of anti-climax that a tie in these affairs always brings. Both sets of players and supporters were vaguely relieved but both knew the disappointment that failing to win a game always fosters when victory has been close.

Lancashire’s unhappiness was probably the greater. Both sides agreed that Notts’ 172 was better than par on a used pitch but Jennings and Allen, the former batting with particular brio, had seemed to have the job under control. Only 44 runs were needed off the last five overs and 27 off the last three with plenty of wickets in hand. But Notts have been here before – this is their second tie in six games in this year’s Blast – and they hung on. Patel was the best bowler on either side and he conceded only 18 runs from his four overs. Jake Ball also bowled well at the death and Lancashire have now won only one of their last 11 T20 games against Notts.

“It was absolutely gutting to get so close and get to the point where you should win it,” said Jennings, who made 88 off 61 balls. “You want to get your team over the line and then you don’t win it and you only walk away with one point. It was a really good game of cricket and great to be a part of but bitterly disappointing when you don’t walk away with all the points.”

Such a reaction is understandable but some wise money was on the visitors after they had posted 172 in the first half of the game. No one dominated their innings as Allen and Jennings were to do for Lancashire but after Alex Hales had made 33, a 17-ball effort than included five successive fours off Steven Croft, Moores held the innings together by making 48 before he was one of three wickets to fall in the final over bowled by Danny Lamb, who returned career-best figures of 3 for 23. Lancashire dropped four catches but Tom Hartley held on to his two chances and also took 2 for 25, thus offering further evidence of a talent that is in danger of being confined to the short form. This would be a desperate waste.

Lancashire’s use of only five frontline bowlers meant they went into the game without the safety net of the sixth part-time trundler or twister that most teams need in these contests. Thus there was no option available to Dane Vilas when Matt Parkinson was collared and returned figures of 1 for 45, the legspinner’s worst figures in the Blast. A couple of hours later, though visiting supporters were applauding a slow bowler, whose England days are long past. But no one doubts that Patel is a genuine allrounder; the word has been made flesh and now it dwells amongst us.

Paul Edwards is a freelance cricket writer. He has written for the Times, ESPNcricinfo, Wisden, Southport Visiter and other publications

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