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Leicestershire Foxes saw their Royal London One-Day Cup quarter-final bid ended after an eight-wicket defeat at Lancashire Lightning was coupled with a win for Derbyshire Falcons.
The Foxes knew beforehand that a victory would set up a floodlit tie in the last eight against Nottinghamshire Outlaws at Trent Bridge next Tuesday.
The situation was taken out of their hands by losing but there was a scenario where the Foxes could yet sneak through.
It needed both Derbyshire and Northants to slip up - and that didn't materialise with the Falcons beating Gloucestershire by 53 runs.
Josh Cobb gave Leicestershire a good start with 58 from 77 balls on his return from injury and Dan Redfern made 43 but the team were bowled out for 184 in 43.1 overs on an Emirates Old Trafford surface that suited slow bowling.
There was a spell where the Foxes went 76 balls without a boundary as spinners Stephen Parry and Steven Croft shone, and the last seven wickets fell for 59 in the space of 90 balls. Kabir Ali marked his return from injury with 3-26.
The total looked well under par and so it proved, with Lightning cruising home with twenty overs to spare. Openers Tom Smith and Luis Reece each made 54 and Karl Brown weighed in with 49 not out.
The Foxes were without the injured Matthew Boyce (arm) but Cobb made a welcome comeback. Ned Eckersley, Jigar Naik and James Sykes also came into the XI in place of Angus Robson, Tom Wells and Ollie Freckingham.
The team were expecting to be without Cobb for this match, so Scott Styris remained in charge and elected to bat after winning the toss. Cobb struck a quintet of boundaries as he settled back in quickly, and O’Brien caressed a cover drive to the fence as the opening stand reached 40 after eight overs.
But without addition to the score, O’Brien (11, 20b) struck Kabir high into the air in the next over and Brown took a well-judged catch as he back-pedalled at deep square-leg. Cobb continued to stamp his authority despite the setback by pulling Smith for a huge six that took the score beyond 50 at the start of the 13th over.
Smith (13, 20b) collected his first four in the next over with a pull to the longest part of the ground but fell in the 15th over to a similar shot in trying to clear the shorter boundary towards the Red Rose Suite. Smith picked out Jordan Clark at deep mid-wicket off Tom Smith.
That brought Eckersley to the crease and he sent the first ball received through extra cover for a stylish boundary. Cobb progressed to a fluent 62-ball half-century (5x4, 1x6) and then smashed Tom Bailey for four through mid-wicket.
But Croft (7-0-32-2) then came on alongside Parry (9-0-29-1) and they bowled superbly in a period that changed the game. It was reminiscent of the NatWest T20 Blast game at Grace Road last month.
Croft made an immediate impact, bringing Cobb’s innings to an end with his second delivery by skidding one through to claim an lbw verdict. Eckersley and Redfern were made to work hard with the spinners bowling accurately to fields that were thoughtfully set. The Foxes moved to 109-3 at halfway.
Boundaries remained in short supply and the pressure told as Eckersley (24, 30b) was routinely stumped by Alex Davies off Parry in the 29th over. Lancashire’s squeeze continued as Shiv Thakor (2, 8b) drove Croft towards mid-wicket in the next over and captain Paul Horton took a good low catch to leave the Foxes on 128-5 with 20 overs to go.
The Foxes recorded their first boundary since the 20th over when Redfern used his feet to loft Parry over mid-off at the start of the 33rd over. Like London buses, another arrived almost immediately as Styris glanced Croft away in the next offering.
The 150 came up just before the Foxes had to take their powerplay after 35 overs. The fielding restrictions are meant to help the batsmen but often have the reverse effect. So it proved again; Styris (10, 18b) hit the very next ball from the returning Bailey to Smith at backward point.
Leicestershire had Wells down to bat at eight in the last game but having opted for an extra bowler on this occasion, Naik came to the crease. Four byes helped the cause but another couple of wickets came as the ever-reliable Kabir yorked Naik (1, 10b) and Anthony Ireland (1, 4b) was bowled by the impressive Bailey (10-0-40-2).
Redfern then uppercut Kabir to Kyle Jarvis (4-0-28-0) at third man and the Foxes were 173-9 with 55 balls remaining. Sykes (11, 15b) just cleared mid-on in Bailey’s last over before hitting to mid-wicket for a second consecutive boundary. But the spinner was last man out, caught by ‘keeper Davies, as Smith (4.1-0-21-2) picked up a wicket with the first ball of his second spell.
The Lightning had seven overs to bat before the interval and progressed to 33-0 with Smith (13) and Reece (18) collecting two fours apiece. There had been one half-chance when Smith struck Shreck to Redfern at backward point in the fifth over, but the ball agonisingly slipped from his grasp upon landing.
Upon the resumption, Smith hit Shreck for a six and two fours from the last three balls of the ninth over as the 50 partnership was registered. Reece then found the fence three times in the final over of the powerplay as Lightning raced to 64-0.
Redfern and Naik then bowled in tandem but it was hard for the spinners to exert pressure in these circumstances. An inside edge from Smith off Redfern went for four before two fine lofted drives by the same batsman went for six and four in the 14th over bowled by Naik. The former Foxes loanee then moved to 50 from his 45th ball (6x4, 2x6) in the next offering.
Sykes came on for Naik at the Brian Statham End and Smith reverse-swept his first delivery for four. The spinner held his nerve and had Smith (54, 48b) held by namesake Greg Smith next ball at long-on to end an opening stand that yielded 97.
Lancashire moved to 115-1 after 20 overs, and Reece then progressed to fifty with a rasping straight drive off Sykes - his 6th four in a 57-ball milestone. The left-hander then fell on the slog sweep as Sykes took a neat catch in the deep off Naik.
Brown (49*, 53b) and Horton (18*, 20b) then played nicely in sharing an unbroken 52, with Brown taking on the role of aggressor as Lightning won in exactly 30 overs. One particular stroke by Brown off Styris cleared long-on as the home side gained a confidence boost ahead of NatWest T20 Blast Finals Day on Saturday.
Bowling figures for Leicestershire: Shreck 6-0-44-0, Ireland 5-0-26-0, Naik 7-0-45-1, Redfern 4-0-18-0, Sykes 6-0-42-1, Styris 2-0-10-0.