Lancashire v Yorkshire T20: Joe Root praises fighting spirit in defeat

A GAME at Lancashire with nothing riding on it?

Well, technically that was true from Yorkshire’s point of view, seeing as though they had already qualified for the quarter-finals of the T20 Blast and guaranteed a home tie.

Of course, the very idea is a non sequitur - every game at Lancashire has something riding on it. Yorkshire always want to beat the old enemy and they were keen to finish the group stage with a flourish, their scheduled final fixture at Derby 24 hours later having been cancelled due to the hosts having 20 players self-isolating or injured.

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But at Old Trafford on Saturday evening, where a broiling sun beat down from a flawless blue sky, Yorkshire were not quite able to sign off strongly, losing by four wickets with one over left.

Yorkshire's Joe Root: Took captaincy. Picture: Tony Johnson

On a pitch on which 392 runs had been scored the previous evening, when Lancashire’s 199-5 edged out Durham’s 193-5, they posted 128-7 after winning the toss, Sheffield-born seamer Luke Wood taking a career-best 4-20.

Joe Root’s 32 was the highest score, the Test captain returning to take over the leadership from Adam Lyth, Root’s runs arriving from 37 balls with two boundaries.

Just Gary Ballance (31 from 21) and Will Fraine (22 not out from 15) scored significantly and at better than a run-a-ball, Ballance injecting impetus with three fours and a meaty six over mid-wicket off spinner Luke Wells – the only maximum that Yorkshire managed.

Yorkshire’s cause looked hopeless at halfway – even more so when Lancashire were 35-0 after two overs. But the departure of both openers in the space of four balls was followed by another wobble from 57-2 to 64-5, albeit Lancashire still had 12.4 overs left to get the other 64.

Wells and Steven Croft knocked off 54 of those in a sixth-wicket stand, Wells top-scoring with 30 and Croft finishing on 26 not out as Lancashire confirmed their own knockout place.

There was an odd incident when Croft slipped in mid-pitch, paralysed with cramp, Yorkshire sportingly not running him out – although it later emerged a dead ball had been called.

“It was a strange one,” said Root. “It looked like a serious injury at first, but thankfully it wasn’t. There will be contrasting opinions on it (what Yorkshire should have done). We went that way. Other people might have handled it differently.”

Root bowled well (four overs for 20), as did Dom Bess (four overs for 19), both spinners taking a wicket. Matthew Waite led the way with 2-17 from three overs, a performance that epitomised the team’s battling spirit.

“Ultimately, we were probably 20 runs short on that surface,” said Root. “But to fight our way back, and also after the start they had with the bat, credit to the lads for never giving in and making it difficult for Lancashire at the end.

“We didn’t manage the game as well as we could have done - me personally, I didn’t quite get it right with the bat. But it was a great game of cricket, and we’ve had a good group campaign overall.”