Lancashire’s cricketers ended their Royal London one-day Cup campaign with only a second Group A win against Leicestershire at Emirates Old Trafford to leave the Foxes’ chances of a quarter-final place hanging in the balance.
The Lightning warmed up for Saturday’s T20 Finals Day with an eight-wicket victory with 20 overs to spare in pursuit of just 185 but the visitors were left hoping that other results would go their way after starting the match knowing that a win would secure qualification.
Leicestershire, who elected to bat, were hurt by losing their last seven wickets for 59 runs in 90 balls to slip from 125 for three in the 29th over to 184 all out inside 44.
By contrast Tom Smith and Luis Reece shared 97 to notch Lancashire’s best 50-over opening stand of the summer and they never looked back as Karl Brown also finished just one short of his own 50.
At the start of the day Kabir Ali led the way for Lancashire upon his return from just over three weeks out with a right shoulder injury, taking three for 26 from nine overs with one wicket in his first five over spell and two in his second.
Scholarship seamer Tom Bailey and experienced all-round duo Tom Smith and Steven Croft all added two wickets apiece.
Only two Foxes players made it beyond 24. Opener Josh Cobb, also returning from a three-week injury lay off, hit 58 off 77 balls and Dan Redfern added 43 off 52 from number five in the order.
The Foxes were a long way under par on a ground where 320 plus was scored by Yorkshire and Hampshire at the start of the competition.
Thanks in the main to Cobb, who pulled the only six of the innings over deep mid-wicket off Smith, they had built a decent platform at 91 for two ahead of the 20th over.
However, with the introduction of spin duo Croft and Stephen Parry, they lost three wickets in 16 overs for the addition of 59 runs, going 76 balls without a boundary between the 20th and 33rd overs.
Lancashire were able to start their innings seven overs before tea and reached 33 without loss. Smith and Reece brought up their 50 partnership in nine overs, with Smith clubbing Charlie Shreck over long-on for six.
He later hit James Sykes’ left arm spin over for cover for his second six on the way to 50 off 45 balls but perished caught at long-on to the same bowler.
Reece brought up his first half-century of the campaign in first-team cricket in the 22nd over by hammering Sykes for a straight four, but he fell in the next for 54 off 61 balls after he tried to slog sweep Jigar Naik’s off-spin and was caught at deep mid-wicket with 133 on the board.
Karl Brown finished with 49 not out off 53 in an unbroken third-wicket stand of 52 inside eight overs with his captain Paul Horton.
Lancashire’s victory helped lift them off the bottom of the table in place of Hampshire.