Record crowd sees Roses duo claim tie in deluge
Lancashire 176 for 4 (Brown 61, Livingstone 34) tied with Yorkshire 64 for 2 (DL method)
Yorkshire and Lancashire shared a tie in their Roses T20 in front of a record crowd at Old Trafford after heavy rain forced the result to be decided on the Duckworth-Lewis method.
The largest attendance for a Blast match outside of London watched these two rivals repeat the T20 tie at Headingley four years ago as a compelling contest was curtailed in the ninth over of Yorkshire's reply.
After Lancashire had made 176 for 4, Karl Brown top-scoring with 61 off 47 balls, Yorkshire's reply began under a threatening sky and it was not long before the first hint of what was to come as spectators began to reach for their waterproofs.
Umpires Rob Bailey and Martin Saggers kept the players on the field for as long as possible, mindful that a sell-out crowd of almost 20,000 had come to be entertained and has a different attitude to the time-honoured assumption that rain should immediately drive the players from the field.
At the end of the eighth over, half an hour into a Manchester downpour that was showing no sign of easing off, Yorkshire were suddenly one run ahead on the score chart at 63 for 2, nudged in front by a soaring David Willey six over midwicket off Junaid Khan.
Conditions by then were becoming farcical, posing problems for batsmen, bowlers and fielders alike. As it happened, a single to Shaun Marsh off the next delivery, from Steven Croft, changed the D-L equation again so that the scores were effectively level, the umpires determining as the rain strengthened that this was an appropriate moment to lead the teams off.
The rain did not relent and an abandonment was inevitable. It denied Yorkshire what would have been only a fifth win in 14 away fixtures against their fiercest rivals in the shortest form of the game but on this occasion it felt that the result was a fair one.
Ryan McLaren had taken both Yorkshire wickets, bowling Tom Kohler-Cadmore with a full delivery before Adam Lyth, who made half-centuries against Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire in Yorkshire's two completed matches so far, was caught by Arron Lilley, getting under a steepler at cover.
Lyth's shot was hard to understand from the outer as it instantly put Yorkshire behind the D/L calculation with the chance seemingly that the umpires could leave the field at the end of the over.
But Andrew Gale, Yorkshire's coach, explained: "Lythy spoke to the umpires and they said they had no intention of coming off. What do you do? knock it around or play the game as you see it. He was in control of the situation. The umpires said they wanted to play for as long as they could. If he goes into his shell and we get behind the Duckworth Lewis and it stops raining, we could have been in a bad position."
At least the dominant home contingent in the crowd, easily identifiable by the red Lancashire baseball caps supplied by the club, had seen a full innings from their own side.
And it had started superbly, Brown driving England's Willey for three powerful cover boundaries in the opening over, setting a pace they maintained throughout the six Powerplay overs, at the end of which they were 59 without loss with a score of 200+ looking within their range.
Liam Livingstone fell in the next over after Yorkshire introduced spin for the first time, Adil Rashid reading his intention to come down the pitch and finding just the right degree of turn to pass the edge of the right-hander's bat, Peter Handscomb reaching out for the ball to complete the stumping.
Nonetheless, with 34 off 24 deliveries, including 15 in one over against Tim Bresnan, Livingstone had given his side the start they required and there was scarcely any loss of momentum after his departure as Brown responded with a couple of boundaries off Steve Patterson.
What's more, Brown now had Jos Buttler for company and the England white-ball specialist signalled his intentions by lofting Azeem Rafiq beyond the reach of Lyth and into the stands at long-on.
After 10 overs the score was 93 for 1, to which Buttler promptly added a dozen more as he teased Ben Coad, including a couple of brilliantly executed scoops to the boundary in which his footwork will have surely impressed the twinkle-toed Ryan Giggs, the former Manchester United winger, who was spotted in the crowd.
But between them Rashid and Rafiq - with an over in between from Patterson - pegged back the assault. Overs 12 to 16 yielded only 27 runs for Lancashire, during which Buttler sliced Rafiq straight to Kohler-Cadmore at deep extra cover and Dane Vilas gave the off-spinner his second wicket as Lyth took a brilliant diving catch at deep mid-wicket.
Brown then enjoyed the second escape of his innings. Put down by Willey at short mid-wicket on 15 off Coad, he was dropped by Kohler-Cadmore on 56, the fielder never in position as Brown skied one from Rashid.
The pace picked up as Willey returned to the attack, Ryan McLaren picking up four from a no ball signalled for above waist height and taking four more from the free hit but then Patterson dismissed Brown, the batsman playing an attempted ramp into his own stumps.
After where they had been at the halfway stage, Lancashire's total felt 20 runs or so short of what it should have been - although as it happened, it could be argued that it was precisely right on the night.
Lancashire have explained, meanwhile, that wicketkeeper Alex Davies has been left out of the NatWest Blast thus far as part of his fitness management programme following the knee surgery he underwent last year.
Davies has played a full part in Lancashire's Specsavers Championship cricket this season and the Royal London One-Day Cup but the club want to protect him from the rigours of fielding in T20.
Head coach Glen Chapple said: "Alex has worked hard to recover from last year's knee injury and we've been delighted with his form already this season but following medical advice, we have taken the decision to rest him."