Lancashire 155 for 8 (David 42, Neesham 4-26) Northamptonshire 153 for 6 (Zaib 57*) by two wickets

Lancashire’s batters held their nerve to secure a tense two-wicket defeat of Northants Steelbacks off the final ball of their Vitality Blast match at Emirates Old Trafford. Needing six to win off the final over, the home side’s chances appeared to have gone when Jimmy Neeshamdismissed both Danny Lamb and Tim David but with three needed off one ball, the New Zealander bowled a wide and then a no-ball to give Lancashire the spoils.

However, Tim David‘s 26-ball 42, which included a trio of sixes, had been just as vital in enabling Lancashire to remain unbeaten in this year’s Blast and preserve their home 100% record against Northants, whose total of 153 for six had always looked competitive on a used, tacky pitch.

All the same, Northants’ innings began badly when Richard Gleeson’s superb yorker uprooted Lewis McManus’s off stump in the third over, but Josh Cobb hit Tom Hartley’s first two balls for leg-side sixes and the visitors eventually notched a respectable 53 runs off their Powerplay, 18 of those runs coming off Hartley’s first set of six.

The visitors’ attempts to accelerate were then frustrated by the loss of two wickets in successive overs. First Josh Cobb was caught at long on by David off Liam LIvingstone for 21; then Ben Curran was bowled for 37 when attempting to reverse sweep a leg-spinner from Luke Wells, who probably owed his selection for this game to Matt Parkinson’s late call-up to England’s Test side.

Northants reached the halfway point of their innings on 81 for three but Rob Keogh and Saif Zaib were finding it difficult to increase the scoring rate on a sticky pitch against an accurate attack.

Just 25 runs had been scored off the previous 23 balls when Keogh was run out for 18 by Wells’ direct hit from mid-on and any hopes that Neesham might improve matters were dashed when the New Zealander was bowled by David for three, thus giving Lancashire’s overseas signing his first wicket for the county.

Tom Taylor was bowled attempting a deeply ambitious reverse sweep off Luke Wood and it needed Zaib’s leg-side six off Gleeson in the nineteenth over to ensure his side got to 140. A front foot no-ball in the final over also boosted the total and Zaib reached his fifty off 36 balls.

The Northants batsman finished unbeaten on 57 and his side’s total looked competitive in the conditions. Wood took one for 27 but the pick of Lancashire’s miserly attack was Livingstone, whose four overs cost 21 runs.

Lancashire’s attempt to overhaul 153 began poorly when Keaton Jennings was bowled by Taylor for two and the same bowler had Steven Croft caught at point by Zaib for 10 after the Lancashire veteran had added 29 in 17 balls with Phil Salt.

The home side ended their Powerplay on 47 for two, six runs and one wicket worse than Northants had been. Lancashire’s attempts to increase the scoring rate were then hampered by the loss of two wickets to the spinners, first when Livingstone’s top-edged sweep was caught by Taylor to give debutant leggie Alex Russell his first senior wicket and then when Salt was leg before to Graeme White for 37.

Three huge sixes by David enlivened home supporters and left Lancashire needing 48 off the final six overs, only for Dane Vilas to be caught on the boundary by White off Neesham for 32. Vilas’s team still needed 33 off four overs and then 23 off three but Luke Wells holed out at deep midwicket off Neesham and 18 were required off the final twelve balls, thus setting up the tense climax to a fine game.

Neesham finished with four for 26 but it will be no consolation.