Lancashire’s cricketers made a winning return to Blackpool’s Stanley Park as they survived a mid-innings and late scare to beat Middlesex in the Royal London 50-0ver Cup by two wickets in front of a sell-out crowd of 4,089 - but it was a mighty close call.
Middlesex fell well short of a reasonable target, struggling to 161, but Lancashire had to recover their composure after moving from 92 for four to 93 for six and looking at risk of ruining the good work of their bowlers.
Australian James Faulkner and his partner Jordan Clark helped Lancashire’s passage home with some sensible batting, marred only by a run-out scare that could have cost them dear, but from which they escaped with the crucial seventh wicket intact.
By the time Faulkner fell for 35, he and Jordan had put on a vital 47 runs.
But when that pair departed in rapid succession,after looking comfortable for long spells, Lancashire still had plenty to do.
There was a worrying finale, and Stephen Parry’s boundary sealed a narrow, drama-charged vicory in an eventful finale.
Earlier in the day, the enthusiastic spectators saw Lancashire make early inroads against the visitors’ batting line-up on a day when county cricket returned to the ground for the first time in four years.
They got rid of the dangerous duo off England pair Eoin Morgan and Nick Compton for 17 and six respectively.
Prominent in the Lancashire attack was Tom Bailey who captured three early wickets,
Bailey got plenty out of the wicket in his stint.
And the Preston-born bowler was not without his supporters in the crowd.
They made themselves known, even when he was not involved, one utilising a mega-phone as if to emphasise the level of his backing.
Lancashire won the toss and skipper Steven Croft put Middlesex in.
If the theory was that any overnight moisture would help the seamers in a match starting as early as 10.30am, then it was a correct ploy as none of the top order could not get a handle on conditions which were quite lively in the first hour with plenty there for the pace attack.
At one stage, Middlesex were toiling at 74 for six, 83 for seven and 111 for eight before the home side came up against stubborn resistance from tailenders James Harris and Toby Roland-Jones.
They put on 50 for the ninth wicket in 61 balls to put the breaks on Lancashire.
Middlesex only used 46.5 of their allotted overs.
Junaid Khan, only signed up by the visitors the previous day, found a slot straightaway at the outset the Lancashire innings and soon garnered his reward for instant accuracy.
Playing against his former county, the Pakistani seamer removed Ashwell Prince cheaply, having him caught at point by Compton.
Karl Brown helped steady the nerves with a bright and breezy 36, Junaid Khan claiming the wicket.
Brown was the third batsman to go following the earlier departure of Alvero Petersen.
There was to be no big innings for Croft, playing on his home ground.
Croft, who took a wicket in the Middlesex innings with his off-spin, fell to James Franklin, caught behind, though he looked anything but happy at his dismissal with the score on 63.
It was a marked contrast in fortune from the last time he played for the county on the ground in 2011 when he claimed a century against Worcestershire in the County Championship.
The fall of the Lancashire captain saw a period of retrenchment by Paul Horton and Faulkner as the scoring-rate slowed, but by this juncture Lancashire still had plenty of time to reach their target.
But things did not run smoothly for Lancashire, with Paul Horton caught for 18 with the home side 92 for five after 21 overs, and it was very much game-on, even more so when Alex Davies was the next to go for one.
Lancashire nearly lost their seventh wicket in the delivery after they had brought up the hundred.
Faulkner and Clark found themselves at the same end, but they had a lucky let-off as Middlesex failed to capitalise.
Undaunted the duo batted carefully, knowing that they did not need to take risks given the size of the target and the ample time available, making steady but sure progress.
They looked like leading their side home until Faulkner fell for 35, caught at slip with the score on 140 for seven.
Seven runs later and it was Clark, who was back in the pavilion and Middlesex were fancying their chances.
With five overs left, Lancashire needed 11 to win off off four overs with Stephen Parry and Bailey at the crease and then seven off three as tension mounted.
But Parry was the hero of the hour, ending the argument with a square cut for four that settled it.