Lancashire head into tonight's sell-out Roses battle with a clear message from coach Mike Watkinson ringing in their ears.
"Win our three remaining games and we can still make the quarter-finals," said Watkinson after his Lightning side slumped to defeat off the last ball against Durham Dynamo at Old Trafford last night.
"If we can do that, we won't be far off second place, or even one of the best of the third-placed teams. Yorkshire are coming for a very attractive picture in front of a big crowd, so we aim to put a show on."
Last night's last-gasp defeat was hardly a "show" as both sides struggled with the bat, but a game that looked to be heading for the tag of the dullest Twenty20 game in the format's short history at least burst into late life.
It had appeared to be a breeze for the Dynamos as they eased to 81 without loss in pursuit of Lancashire's paltry 117-8.
But spinners Gary Keedy and Simon Marshall slowed a pedestrian pursuit even further and a fired-up Dominic Cork conceded just 10 runs from his three overs. The veteran Cork's efforts meant that the visitors suddenly needed 14 off the last 10 balls, and a game which had spluttered and sighed suddenly became a cliff-hanger. But Jimmy Maher sliced a single to third man off Sajid Mahmood's last ball to grab it.
The Lancashire innings had a sorry look, bulked up by a middle order which eked out singles. They were undone by the Durham seam attack of Mick Lewis (4-19) and Graham Onions (3-25), who turned in an accurate spell of bowling that reduced Lightning to 63-6, with Stuart Law, Nathan Astle and Mark Chilton all back in the pavilion cheaply.
Lancs fans who strolled past the Stretford End nets before the game will have found more succour with the sight of Andrew Flintoff bowling a few overs, and Jimmy Anderson and Luke Sutton going through the motions as they battle back from injury.
"Jimmy is a long way off playing any cricket - it is a long road back for him," said Watkinson.
"Luke has a steel pin holding a piece of bone on to his thumb, and playing one-handed in the nets won't make that recover any quicker."
Sajid Mahmood will sit out tonight's game, after England requested he should play in just two of the current round of Twenty20 games. His place is likely to go to youngster Steven Mullaney.
Tonight's game is the first in Lancashire's history to sell out in advance, with a 15,500 crowd expected.
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