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Lancashire Lightning gave their NatWestT20Blast quarter-final hopes a giant boost by beating North Group leaders Birmingham Bears by eight runs at Edgbaston.

It amounted to a happy return to Edgbaston for Bears legend Ashley Giles, now director of cricket at Lancashire, as his side lodged a vital win thanks to Steven Croft’s virtuoso all-round performance.

Croft’s unbeaten 64 from 51 balls lifted the Lightning to 145 for six as they only belatedly shook off scoring shackles imposed by tight bowling led by Jeetan Patel’s  4-0-14-2.

Then after Brendon McCullum gave the Bears’ reply a spectacular launch with 41 from 25 balls, his departure to that man Croft drained the chase of momentum.

Croft ended with two for 16 from his four overs – and pulled off a brilliant catch to boot – as he almost single-handedly sealed two precious points for his team,

Defeat for Birmingham Bears , meanwhile, leaves them with work still to do to secure a home quarter-final, though they are already guaranteed a top-four spot.

Put in, Lancashire lost openers Ashwell Prince and Liam Livingstone to tamely-offered catches to mid-wicket in the first 19 balls. Rikki Clarke then added the scalp of Alex Davies in an excellent three-over opening spell which cost just seven runs.

Lancashire’s batsmen enjoyed no respite against the slower bowlers as the first three overs of spin yielded just 11 runs and another wicket, Karl Brown, lbw to Jeetan Patel’s first ball.

At halfway, the Lightning had limped to 44 for four and, though Croft and Luke Procter shored up the innings with a stand of 41 in 37 balls, their team badly need fireworks in the closing overs. Croft, who hit three sixes and six fours, and James Faulkner (20, 15 balls) provided a few in a stand of 59 in 34 balls.

The Bears began watchfully, scoring four from the first two overs but, in the third, McCullum climbed into Jordan Clark, lifting the young all-rounder for two fours and two sixes.

McCullum and Tom Lewis (22, 21 balls) added 40 from 33 balls but when they fell to successive balls in Croft’s first over the momentum was punctured.

Croft added a wonderful catch, taken at full stretch at point to dismiss Laurie Evans, to his spectacular night’s work and as the required rate escalated, Birmingham needed to find 23 from the last ten balls, which that proved beyond a succession of new batsmen  from the lower order.