Lancashire Lightning reached Vitality Blast finals day for the eighth time after beating Sussex Sharks by 45 runs in a low-scoring game at Hove.
The 2015 champions will face Nottinghamshire in the second of Saturday’s semis at Edgbaston and they will fancy their chances if they encounter a pitch similar to the slow surface their bowlers relished here.
Sussex appeared to be favourites when Lancashire were restricted 140 for eight after being put in, but their attack – particularly spinners Matt Parkinson, Tom Hartley and Liam Livingstone – did such an outstanding job that Sussex were dismissed for 95, their lowest total in the competition since 2011, in 17.2 overs.
Only Luke Wright (36) offered much resistance but when he became Livingstone’s second victim in the 13th over – well caught by the diving Steven Croft at long-off for 36 – their last five wickets subsided for just 18 runs in 19 balls.
Leg-spinner Parkinson took three of them in four balls in the 15th over and, between them, Lancashire’s spinners finished with combined figures of eight for 50 from 9.2 overs.
Although Phil Salt hit the first ball of the reply for four, it was one of only four boundaries in the first half of Sussex’s innings. Salt fell to Saqib Mahmood’s first delivery and neither Delray Rawlins (6), Ravi Bopara (9) or David Wiese, who hit the only six of the innings, could give Wright the support he needed. Even the normally free-scoring Sussex captain found it difficult to time the ball, but he hit four of only seven boundaries in the innings from 35 balls faced.
Lancashire has been restricted to 140 for eight after being put in but the runs scored by the experienced Croft (41) and skipper Dane Vilas (40) were to prove crucial.
Wright employed six bowlers in the first nine overs on a hybrid pitch offered little pace and it was only when Croft and Vilas added 43 in 5.2 overs for the fourth wicket that Lancashire were able to find any momentum.
Sussex restricted them to 34 from the power-play while also removing Livingstone, who hit Ollie Robinson for two sixes before succumbing to Robinson’s yorker, and Keaton Jennings (5), who drove George Garton’s slower ball to mid-on.
Alex Davies, Lancashire’s leading scorer in this year’s Blast with 284 runs, was unusually subdued, making 16 off 19 balls before falling in the tenth over to an excellent diving catch by Wiese running in from the square leg boundary.
Croft hit three sixes in six balls off Delray Rawlins and Robinson only to succumb looking to hit Garton over deep square in the 15th over and, after a heavy shower had forced the players off for 30 minutes, Lancashire lost two wickets in the first over following the resumption to Tymal Mills, while Vilas was deceived by Garton’s slower ball in the final over, having made 40 off 28 balls. Garton took his tally to 14 wickets, including 11 in his last three games, with 3 for 28.
After the match, Jason Gillespie said: "I thought we did well to restrict a very good batting team to 140 so to put in a batting performance like that was pretty disappointing.
"I can't fault their efforts. The preparation had been good but we didn't adapt quickly enough to the conditions and credit to Lancashire, I thought their bowlers did very well.
"It's an opportunity missed because our bowling and fielding was excellent and the surface wasn't that bad, it was a gettable score."
Hear Gillespie's full interview here: