IT ALWAYS rains in Manchester.
Even in a heatwave.
Even in a summer that could break all records.
Amid talk of furnace-like temperatures for the rest of July, and with a hosepipe ban coming into force in the north west next month, it still chucked it down at Old Trafford yesterday.
The rain was heavy enough – of cloudburst intensity at one stage – to delay the start of the match by 75 minutes before sunshine briefly returned with a vengeance
That only 12 overs were lost, with the match reduced to 14 overs-a-side, was testament to how dry the ground has been and the diligence of the Lancashire groundstaff, who were able to give their water hogs a rare run-out before the action finally started at 7.45pm.
“First spot of rain in 2 months,” tweeted the Yorkshire all-rounder Tim Bresnan with rueful reflection.
“Must be time for the Roses T20.”
Before a crowd of 22,515, a record for a T20 match outside of London excluding Finals Day, the mood of Bresnan and his team-mates was no less brighter come close of play, Yorkshire losing a thrilling game by one run after a valiant effort to chase 177.
The hosts made 176-2, a total that would have been formidable enough over a full 20 overs, captain Liam Livingstone top-scoring with 79 from 37 balls with seven fours and six sixes, and Arron Lilley striking an unbeaten 42 from 20 and Jordan Clark an undefeated 34 from 17.
Adam Lyth blazed 60 from 26 balls with six sixes to give Yorkshire’s reply a flying start, and Joe Root – recently dropped from England’s T20 team – so nearly got the visitors home with an unbeaten 51 from 22.
But with 17 needed from the last over from Toby Lester, and then four from the final ball, Kane Williamson was unable to find the required boundary after a bold effort from the Yorkshire batsmen.
After visiting captain Steve Patterson won the toss, Lancashire made an electrifying start.
Livingstone cracked two successive leg-side sixes in the second over, bowled by Bresnan, after a remarkable escape in the opening over when he skied David Willey to mid-off where the converging Patterson, Lyth and Williamson left the ball to each other as it dropped apologetically to ground, a communication breakdown that recalled the classic saying, “After you, Claude – no, after you, Cecil.”
When Lancashire next cleared the rope, Jos Buttler depositing Willey straight, the ball ended up on the Yorkshire players’ balcony where it was retrieved by the county’s director of cricket Martyn Moxon.
At the end of the powerplay, abbreviated from the usual six overs to 4.1, the hosts had raced to 52-0, the lion’s share to Livingstone.
Four balls later, however, calamity hit the hosts. Buttler, in trying to scamper a leg-bye off Liam Plunkett, was run-out at the non-striker’s end by the bowler after the batsmen fatally hesitated in mid-pitch.
Livingstone carried on unperturbed, reaching a 26-ball half-century when he slog-swept Adil Rashid for his fourth six to go with four fours.
A brace of maximums followed when Livingstone thumped Azeem Rafiq to long-on, where Lyth could only parry the ball over the rope, Livingstone pulling the next delivery in the direction of Brian Statham Way.
Finally, with the score on 120 in the 10th over, Livingstone scythed Patterson to mid-off where Root took a splendid catch, diving to his left.
After Livingstone’s assault, Clark and Lilley each traded a leg-side six off Rashid, who looked like a man trying to play himself out of the Test squad as opposed to back into it, conceding 44 runs from his three overs.
No Yorkshire bowler emerged unscathed, Willey also taking a beating as his three overs disappeared for 41.
When Yorkshire batted, Lyth thumped five leg-side sixes in a 20-ball fifty. Another six came when he lofted leg-spinner Matt Parkinson over long-off, but he fell trying to repeat the feat and was caught by Livingstone.
Parkinson had Willey stumped in his next over, but Root and Plunkett took sixes off the wrist-spinner as Yorkshire kept abreast of their daunting target.
With 46 needed from the last three overs, Plunkett was bowled off his pads by Clark, and after a couple of meaty maximums Bresnan was caught at deep mid-wicket off James Faulkner.
Moxon said: “I don’t think we were at our best in the field – not quite as good as we could have been with the bowling. You’ve got to give the Lancashire batsmen credit.
“We know Livingstone’s a great ball striker. He gave us an opportunity which we didn’t take and made us pay.
“We know how T20 works. It’s fine lines. If you get your line and length slightly wrong, it disappears. It has done all night.
“The group’s wide open. Everybody’s beating everybody. I’ve just seen the table and Durham have gone second with eight points.
“We have six with a game in hand. It’s still all to play for.”