T20 BLAST, 2018
Worcestershire out-fielded and out-bowled their opponents, defending 169 which looked no more than a par score at the halfway stage. © Getty
England name their limited-overs squad for Sri Lanka early next week and Lancashire’s young legspinner Matt Parkinson would have every right to feel hard done by were he not included. The 21-year-old further added to his growing reputation with a fine spell in the first semi-final of Finals Day of the T20 Blast but it wasn’t enough to get his team through to the final after an inspired Worcestershire bowling and fielding display.
Lancashire lost 5 for 22 in the space of four overs thanks to a brilliant spell at the death from 19-year-old fast bowler Pat Brown, another who has forced himself onto England’s radar. He picked up four wickets in two overs as Worcestershire out-fielded and out-bowled their opponents, defending 169 which looked no more than a par score at the halfway stage. Having reached their first Finals Day on Saturday (September 15), Worcestershire now have a chance to win it.
At the halfway stage that looked unlikely thanks to Parkinson. He has been on the selectors’ radar for a while having taken part in the North-South series in the Caribbean ahead of the season and he also played white-ball cricket for the England Lions against India ‘A’ and West Indies ‘A’ earlier this summer. Although there are other spinners in the mix for the ODI and T20I squads, Parkinson could have done little more to advance his cause. His two wickets here took his tournament tally to 25 but it was the manner of his dismissals which so impressed.
Unlike, say, Afghanistan’s Rashid Khan, Parkinson is not a legspinner who fires the ball in. Instead, he gives the ball plenty of air and a good rip in search of wickets and both his dismissals today were the result of that tactic. First, Tom Fell was beaten by a ball which drifted, dipped and then spun past his outside edge to have him stumped and later, left-handed Ross Whiteley was bowled by a ball which pitched on off-stump and hit leg.
Parkinson finished with 2 for 23 from his four overs and in tandem with Afghan left-arm wrist-spinner Zahir Khan, restricted Worcestershire to 32 runs between overs seven and 15 after Moeen Ali had got the Midlands team off to a flier. The England all-rounder scored 41 off just 21 deliveries, taking a particular liking to the off-spin of Lancashire’s captain Liam Livingstone, and Worcestershire looked to be on for a 200 plus score while he was at the crease.
Things didn’t work out that way though as Lancashire fought back with a team hat-trick. Khan had Moeen caught at long-on off the fifth ball of his first over and then Brett D’Oliviera was run out without facing off the next. Then, off the first ball of Parkinson’s following over, Fell was dismissed. From having Lancashire on the ropes, in the space of three balls Worcestershire had handed the initiative back to the red rose county.
When two more quick wickets reduced the batting side to 97 for 6, it looked like the contest might fizzle out but Worcestershire wrestled some of the initiative back thanks to a partnership of 72 off 38 deliveries between wicket-keeper Ben Cox and all-rounder Ed Barnard which propelled them to a total of 169. Cox hit three sixes in the 19th over and brought up his half-century, off 32 deliveries, shortly after. He and Barnard had got Worcestershire to a no more than par score but it was far better than it had looked at one stage.
Lancashire opted to bat Jos Buttler at number four and despite the early loss of Alex Davies, needlessly run out, they managed 55 runs from the PowerPlay. How many more it might have been had Buttler – averaging more than 60 as an opener in T20 cricket this year – batted with the field up is a moot point but it was a strange decision not to give him the chance of facing as many balls as possible.
Like Worcestershire, Lancashire had their own mid-innings wobble after a decent start, losing two wickets in the space of six balls and then Buttler, playing on to Moeen, with more than 80 runs still needed at ten an over. As well as Parkinson bowled in the first innings, Moeen was just as good in the second, conceding just 16 runs from his four overs. Although the Lancastrian may find himself in the national squad soon, he will still have plenty to do to usurp Moeen or Adil Rashid from England’s first choice eleven.
After a difficult Test series against India, it was heartening to see Keaton Jennings (51 not out) back in the runs but he could do little as a procession of wickets fell at the other end. Brown, the tournament’s leading wicket-taker, ended up with four for 21 and Barnard importantly ran out the South African Dane Villas just as a partnership was developing between him and Jennings. With that wicket went the game and it is Worcestershire who progress to the final.
Brief scores: Worcestershire 169/6 in 20 overs (Moeen Ali 41, Ben Coz 55*; Matthew Parkinson 2-23) beat Lancashire 149/9 in 20 overs (Keaton Jennings 51*; Patrick Brown 4-21) by 20 runs.