In his few weeks as a Durham cricketer, Calum MacLeod has done a lot of things right – but the county were unable to recover from his mental aberration as they suffered their first Twenty20 defeat of the season.
MacLeod top-scored with 45 from 34 deliveries as the Riversiders turned what ought to have been a mundane victory into a nailbiting defeat.
At the start of the 15th over, Durham were 28 runs up on the over-by-over comparison.
Twelve balls later, with MacLeod in the dressing room, they were just one run better off than their visitors at the same stage and well behind on the Duckworth Lewis calculation which, if this had been a run-of-the-mill limited-overs game rather than a half-term Twenty20 in front of 3,397 fans, would have come into play in the darkening conditions.
Lancashire won by a single run.
When batsmen are naturally inventive it is hard to be too critical, but MacLeod’s wicket was a poor one, travelling a mile outside off-stump to send the opening delivery of Junaid Khan’s second spell straight to short fine leg. A single to get Gareth Breese off the mark was Durham’s only reward from the 16th over.
Even then they had their chances. Having done well to hare across the boundary to it, Steven Croft ought to have held the chance Gordon Muchall offered up on four not out.
It was hardly Herschelle Gibbs at Headingley in 1999, but it felt like the fielder had just dropped the Emirates Cup.
Another excellent Khan over in which he did remove Muchall left Durham needing 15 from the last six balls. When the first two went for seven courtesy of one of the best Twenty20 shots – the mishit – and Arron Lilley’s misfield, at the very least a repeat of the last 133-133 tie between the sides looked on.
Durham, though, were limited to ones and twos.
A less forgiving bowler than Kabir Ali would have run Ryan Pringle out as he came in to deliver the fifth ball, but he settled for a friendly warning.
Whether the backing-up batsman could even see it from so far down the pitch in the gloomy conditions is questionable.
To see Durham scrambling two off the last delivery when they needed twice that had been unthinkable for much of the game.
Lancashire’s 133-6 was well below par, yet in the end it was one too many. Durham were scoring at seven an over when Ben Stokes’ unnecessary reverse sweep saw him follow Phil Mustard and Mark Stoneman into the pavilion for one.
MacLeod and Paul Collingwood added 47 for the fourth wicket.
In hindsight Collingwood went too slowly, making seven from 16 balls before he finally found the rope with consecutive fours cracked over midwicket and clipped through fine leg.
With MacLeod so dominant, it never seemed a problem, When Collingwood was caught on the deep midwicket boundary, Durham just needed him to continue in the same vein to stroll over the line – but four balls later he was gone.
Backed up by excellent fielding, Durham’s display with the ball had been a model of Twenty20 discipline, led by their senior citizens.
The two 38-year-olds, Collingwood and Gareth Breese, came on straight after the powerplay and their eight overs yielded a combined 2-29.
They were well backed up, Muchall sprinting off the long-off boundary to take an excellent catch off Croft.
The fielder had only just been moved there by Stoneman.
Muchall took another good catch in the final over, holding a Karl Brown steepler. Usman Arshad also did well running in off the wide fine leg boundary to take Andrea Agathangelou’s pull as Chris Rushworth restricted Lancashire to six runs in the final over.
Lancashire only made that many because Stoneman allowed Pringle a second over.
The shackles were broken from the last delivery of the 16th over, Jordan Clark hitting Arshad for four through mid-off. It was only the fifth boundary of the innings – the rest having all come in the six-over powerplay – but it burst the damn.
Pringle’s first over was a tidy run-a-ball affair but his next began 6,6,4,6 – all the shots pulled by Brown, who finished as top-scorer with 61 from 58 deliveries.
A fourth six from the first ball of the next over, from Rushworth, took him to 50.
Crucially, bowling Pringle denied Stokes his full quota of four overs. Pringle’s second over cost 23 – only two less than Stokes conceded in the whole innings.
Stokes bowled neither the first nor the last over – Rushworth took those responsibilities – but performed at either end.
The wicket of Tom Smith was an excellent one, nipping the ball back in to beat the drive of a batsman fortunate to survive an inside edge just past his stumps in Stokes’ first
over. Smith’s opening partner Alex Davies had long since gone by then, wafting across the line at Arshad.
Paul Horton’s demise was uglier still, swiping across the line at Breese and falling lbw.
In the end, Durham were left rueing the moment the umpires awarded Michael Richardson three from the first ball of the last over when the home fans were adamant it had gone for four.
Twenty20 is usually a game of fine margins. Durham only had themselves to blame for this being one.