James Faulkner Stars as Lancashire Beat Northamptonshire to Win Twenty20 Blast

London: Australia all-rounder James Faulkner capped an eventful couple of months by helping Lancashire to a 13-run win over Northamptonshire in the final of English domestic cricket’s Twenty20 Blast tournament at Edgbaston on Saturday. (Click here for latest Cricket stories)

Faulkner, man-of-the-match in Australia’s World Cup final win over New Zealand in Melbourne in March, was fined £10,000 ($15,650, 14,350 euros) and banned from driving for two years by an English court on August 5 after being found to be nearly three times over the legal alcohol limit when his car was involved in a minor collision with the back of another vehicle in Manchester.

Prior to that drink-drive punishment, Cricket Australia temporarily banned Faulkner for “conduct that is unbecoming of a representative”, ruling him out of both last week’s one-day international against Ireland in Belfast and the upcoming white-ball matches against England, starting with Monday’s Twenty20 in Cardiff.

But the focus was back on the 25-year-old Faulkner’s cricket on Saturday as Lancashire, last season’s beaten finalists, ended a 16-year wait for a limited overs trophy.

The Tasmanian took two for 25, including both Northamptonshire openers David Willey and Richard Levi, and afterwards Lancashire coach Ashley Giles told Sky Sports: “(Faulkner has) a huge impact on the whole team. He’s been a pleasure to have around.

“His skills are undoubted and he loves these big occasions — he just steps up and gets on with it,” the former England left-arm spinner added.

Sent into bat, Lancashire made 166 for seven in their 20 overs, a total built on a 77-run opening stand between South Africa’s Ashwell Prince (43) and Alex Davies (47), who was named man-of-the-match.

– Afridi treble –

Pakistan star Shahid Afridi helped check Lancashire’s progress, the veteran all-rounder taking a superb three for 14 in a maximum four overs with his leg-spinners.

Meanwhile, Northampton-born Willey, set to leave his native side for county champions Yorkshire, saw his left-arm fast-medium bowling yield figures of two for 21.

Northamptonshire had stormed into finals day on the back of Willey’s blistering 40-ball hundred against Sussex — the quickest Twenty20 century by an Englishman.

The way he struck Faulkner into the Eric Hollies Stand for six on Saturday hinted at similar heroics.

But Faulkner responded by removing Levi (16) and England limited overs all-rounder Willey (24) in the space of four balls, with the aid of catches at mid-off and mid-wicket respectively.

Josh Cobb (44 not out) and Afridi (26) revived Northamptonshire’s hopes with a rapid fifth-wicket stand of 52.

Afridi, nicknamed ‘Boom Boom’ on account of his penchant for big-hitting, struck one huge six while another fierce hit straight back at Faulkner left the Australian needing to have his finger straightened out by a member of the Lancashire medical staff.

But Gavin Griffiths effectively ended Northamptonshire’s victory charge when he induced Afridi to hole out to Liam Livingstone in the deep.

“To win would have been a dream finish for me,” said Willey. “As has been well documented, we’re a small club and we’ve overachieved so credit to the lads and backroom staff.

“Unfortunately we couldn’t get across the line.”

The semi-finals saw Lancashire dismiss Hampshire for 115 in a six-wicket win, while Northamptonshire beat Edgbaston-based Warwickshire by five wickets, with Levi making 63 not out as they chased down a target of 132.

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