Blast win gives Lancs lift-off!

Lancashire Lightning captain Steven Croft lifts the trophy after victory over Northamptonshire Steelbacks in the NatWest T20 Blast Final at Edgbaston

Lancashire Lightning captain Steven Croft lifts the trophy after victory over Northamptonshire Steelbacks in the NatWest T20 Blast Final at Edgbaston

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Lancashire head coach Ashley Giles may have been an outsider during the Red Rose’s barren one-day years.

But he was thrilled to finally end their 16-year wait for limited-overs silverware at his adopted home.

Lightning successfully defended 166 for seven to clinch the NatWest T20 Blast title with a 13-run victory over Northamptonshire on finals day at a ground where former Warwickshire chief Giles first cut his coaching teeth.

His allegiances shifted prior to this campaign when Lancs turned to the former England limited-overs head coach to lead them – and Giles was happy to finally deliver a one-day trophy to Old Trafford.

“I’ve been lucky to get a fantastic job with Lancashire,” added Giles.

“The guys have been great, they’ve really welcomed me with open arms. I’m a bit of an outsider – slightly Midlander and a lot Southerner – but they’ve welcomed me a lot in Manchester.

“The guys came very close last year and in the past, we’re just delighted we got over the line in the end.”

Twelve months ago Edgbaston was the home of heartbreak for the Red Rose when they were beaten by Birmingham in a last-ball decider on their fifth finals day appearance, despite the returning Andrew Flintoff almost penning the perfect script.

This year did not go exactly to plan for Giles either – his premonitions of a meeting with the Bears in the final were scuppered when they were ousted by Northants in the first last-four clash – but, having defeated Hampshire earlier in the afternoon, Lancs’ head coach was pleased to see the day had some moments to remember in store.

“I was awake at five,” he admitted.

“It was a bit like Christmas – you weren’t quite sure what you were going to get in your sack but in the end it turned out all right!”

Ashwell Prince and man-of-the-match Alex Davies paved the way for Lancs with an opening stand of 77 in the final as they accumulated runs at a brisk rate following two low-scoring semi-finals that had been played on a sluggish track.

Northants’ potential match-winners David Willey, Josh Cobb and Shahid Afridi all flashed brilliance in the reply yet it was seamer Gavin Griffiths, a 21-year-old who only earned his senior Twenty20 bow in the semi-final that morning, who kept a cool head with two miserly overs at the death to prevent the Steelbacks from emulating their 2013 success.

“I’m very relieved, very proud,” said Lightning skipper Steven Croft.

“It’s been a long time coming. We’ve played some great Twenty20 cricket, to finally get our hands on the trophy is very pleasing.

“It’s been a great squad effort, not just this season but in seasons gone by. I’m just really pleased we’ve got our hands on that trophy.”

Alex Wakely’s Steelbacks were seen as the outsiders out of the quartet but they brushed aside holders Birmingham in the semi-finals to raise hopes Yorkshire-bound Willey could enjoy a dream swansong.

But while he will head into Roses battles next year hoping to avenge his current county’s loss to Lancashire on Saturday, Wakely expressed his pride at the performance of those he is leaving behind.

“Lancashire were the better team,” he conceded.

“I thought that with the way we started – obviously we clawed it back a little bit – but I thought they were the better team in the final and they lifted the trophy because of that.

“I’m really proud of my team. We’ve come through some tough times with limited resources and a small squad. We’ve stuck together well and I think that’s why we seem to be punching above our weight - as people keep saying.”