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Richard Jones had a dream debut but Leicestershire Foxes lost for a fourth NatWest T20 Blast match in succession at Lancashire Lightning.
Jones claimed a career-best 5-34 and Rob Taylor (4-0-26-1) and Jigar Naik (4-0-19-0) also shone as Lightning posted 166-7 at Emirates Old Trafford.
It was a good performance with the ball and in the field but some excellent hitting in the last over ensured the Lightning scored 20 to finish with momentum.
Overseas paceman Junaid Khan (4-0-30-3) then led an all-round disciplined bowling display as the Foxes again suffered a narrow defeat in the competition, this time by a nine-run margin.
Matthew Boyce (47, 35b), Tom Wells (28, 22b), Josh Cobb (27, 18b) and Taylor (20, 12b) all batted well but a valiant attempt ended on 157-7.
Leicestershire handed a first start to seamer Jones after the paceman joined on loan from Warwickshire earlier today, and Anthony Ireland and Boyce also returned to the side.
Our condolences go to Scott Styris, who has returned to New Zealand after suffering a family bereavement. Nathan Buck has a finger injury, while James Sykes also came out of the side that lost to Worcestershire Rapids last Friday.
Lancashire won the toss and elected to bat, and Tom Smith and Ashwell Prince opened the innings. Naik’s first over went for just five before Tom Smith launched Ireland’s (4-0-51-1) first ball down the ground for four.
Jones started with a dot but his second delivery was a no-ball that was cut away for four by Tom Smith. A glance from Prince (12, 13b) also raced away but the former South Africa international then carved to Boyce at cover at the end of the over.
Ben Raine (2-0-14-0) conceded just a single from his first four balls as Boyce made two excellent stops at backward point but Karl Brown picked up three from the fifth ball and Tom Smith struck a six to wide mid-on off the last delivery.
Brown (7, 7b) hit Jones over mid-off in the fifth but the bowler exacted revenge as a pacy delivery was nicked to Niall O’Brien. Skipper Paul Horton and Tom Smith both pulled Ireland for four as the score progressed to 53-2 at the end of the powerplay.
Naik, Raine and Taylor conceded 18 in the next four overs as the Foxes put the brakes on. The Lightning then gained some much-needed momentum as 11 came from each of the next two overs.
Tom Smith launched Cobb (2-0-18-0) for two fours over mid-off before the left-hander brought up a 35-ball 50 with a six over mid-wicket in the 12th. It also recorded the 50 partnership but Taylor dismissed Tom Smith (50, 36b) with his next delivery after the opener failed to connect with a reverse sweep and was trapped in front.
That brought England international Jos Buttler to the wicket, and the score moved to 100-3 after 13 overs. Taylor went for just two in his third over and Naik completed a miserly spell by going for six. Horton hit two consecutive fours at the start of the 16th over but Taylor responded well as three came off the final four balls of his impressive stint.
Jones returned and his pace and bounce continued to cause problems as Horton (40, 40b) uppercut to Ireland at third man. Four came from it, so the total moved to 123-4 with three overs to go.
The dangerous Buttler was still at the crease and he drilled a six towards the away dressing room as 12 were gathered in the antepenultimate over. Ten came from the first three balls of Jones’ last over, including a no-ball, a wide, and a pulled four by Steven Croft, but the bowler responded brilliantly.
Jones (7,5 b) gained his fourth wicket with the ball after the boundary as Croft holed out to Taylor at long-on, and Buttler (20, 18b) then lapped the following delivery to Naik at short fine leg. Jones was now on a hat-trick and had the chance of a six-for with his final delivery – this was incredible stuff.
Jordan Clark picked up a single to spoil the fun and Lightning scored 20 off a profitable last over. Clark (9, 4b) pulled a six to take the score beyond 150 before he struck Ireland to Greg Smith at long-off. The batsmen crossed, and Arron Lilley (12*, 3b) nicked his first delivery for four before picking up two and powering the last ball over long-on for a mighty six.
Five were gathered off the first over of the chase but the second over was good for the Foxes. Cobb launched a huge six over mid-wicket before striking the next ball through mid-on for four as thirteen came from it in total.
O’Brien swept Croft (3-0-22-0) for four in the third over, and a wonderful straight drive off Clark brought Cobb another maximum. But the all-rounder made a breakthrough as O’Brien (9, 8b) was caught by sub Alex Davies at cover. A second wicket came in the next over as Cobb pulled Junaid to Tom Smith at mid-wicket.
Greg Smith (6, 6b) cracked Kabir Ali through cover point but a third wicket fell in as many overs as the number three was held by Horton in the covers. The Foxes, who were 36-0 after 3.4 overs, were now 46-3 at the end of the powerplay.
Boyce cut a three to bring up the 50 in the 7th over but Lilley (3-0-24-0) and Stephen Parry (4-0-27-1) conceded just six apiece in their openers. A reverse-sweep off Lilley brought Boyce four in the 9th over and a well-placed conventional sweep from the left-hander off Parry also found the fence as the Foxes progressed to 74-3 at halfway.
A reverse from Boyce off the returning Croft went fine for four, and another beautifully struck sweep again pierced two boundary riders in Parry’s third over. The slow left armer then took a good high catch off his own bowling to dismiss Ned Eckersley (12, 16b).
Boyce again pulled out the sweep and then glanced as two fours came from successive Lilley deliveries, and Wells whacked Parry through mid-wicket in the next over as the score moved to 107-4 after 14.
The Foxes needed ten an over at that point and Khan still had three overs up his sleeve. Seven came from each of the next two overs and Khan then bowled Boyce (47, 35b) as Lightning continued to squeeze.
Another couple of decent overs from Khan and Clark (3-0-24-1) meant the target was 33 off 12 balls and although Wells hit Khan for a mighty six, the left armer had the batsman caught by Clark at mid-off next ball.
Taylor smoked a six over mid-wicket from the third ball of the over and a drive through mid-on then brought three. A single for Raine brought up the 150 but a dot ball followed and the Foxes required 17 off the last over.
Kabir (3-0-26-2) held his nerve at the death to ensure a home win. A bye was followed by a two and single for Taylor, and Raine then picked up a one. Two sixes were required but the next ball went for two and Kabir bowled Taylor (20, 12b) with the last ball of the game.
The Foxes' next NatWest T20 Blast game comes against Nottinghamshire Outlaws at Grace Road on Thursday evening (5.30pm start).