Leicestershire Foxes Head Coach Paul Nixon is hoping that a sprinkling of T20 magic at Emirates Old Trafford will prove a lucky omen for his side as the team enters the final four Vitality Blast group games.
When the Foxes won the tournament in 2011, an overseas all-rounder had the telling impact on a success at Lancashire Lightning that helped change the fortunes of the campaign.
And history repeated itself on Friday evening with Mohammad Nabi crashing 86 not out off 32 balls to follow in the footsteps of former Pakistan star Abdul Razzaq.
On that occasion, Razzaq scored 62 off 30 deliveries to pull a win out of the bag in a game that Nixon played in, so the comparison is a good one.
Nixon said: “It was amazing, and it reminded of Abdul Razzaq there a few years ago when he got 60-odd off about 30 balls.
“Mohammad Nabi is a world-class player and that’s why we signed the guy. He’s been positive in the dressing room and he’s hit the ball well but just hasn’t got the scores so far.
“On the big stage big players came through and he rose to the occasion for us along with Colin Ackermann. It was just magnificent; the sixes were hitting the top of the press box or going out of the ground.”
While Nixon paid tribute to the Afghanistan international’s brutal assault, he also highlighted the importance of the contributions made by all-rounder Ateeq Javid and 19-year-old debutant Harry Swindells.
Javid, making only his second T20 appearance of the season, made 15 not out in an unbroken partnership of 102 with Nabi, batting with intelligence in ensuring his team-mate had as much of the strike as possible before hitting the winning boundary.
Earlier, he and the Leicester-born Swindells injected athleticism and vigour in the field as the Foxes fought to keep Lancashire’s total under 200.
“Sometimes we forget how much of an honour it is to do what we do, how much fun it is and how lucky we are,” said Nixon.
“Ateeq [Javid] and Harry [Swindells], they’re smiling from 8am to 10pm, they’d run through a brick wall for the side, and that’s exactly how we all have to be: they keep the old ones young and bring a real spark to the group.”
The victory was a 10th on the road in 12 competition matches for the Foxes, who will be looking for another two points at Durham Jets tomorrow night (6.30pm start).
Two more points could close the gap on the top four in a tight North Division – particularly if the Jets beat the Lightning this evening – and Nixon is looking for more of the same in terms of the performance.
“What was pleasing was the method and the thinking behind our win last Friday,” he said. “We bat right down and we’ve got the belief.
“We’ve scored 230 this year but Mohammad Nabi was at his world-class best. Lancashire played so well but we clawed it back in the middle of their innings. The spinners bowled really well and we only conceded 65 runs between overs six and 15.
“The home game against Durham still lingers in the memory because it’s a game that we should have won. We restricted them to a below-par score but didn’t play Imran Tahir well. He’s another world-class operator, but we learnt our lessons from that and have chased better as a result.
“It’ll be a tough game there, as they are having a good season and are always competitive, but we’ve little option other than go and win the next four games and see where it takes us.
“Every game from here on in is a must-win, a Cup Final, but we have to make it easier for ourselves by everybody taking responsibility.
“We dominated three-and-a-half days of the Championship match up at Durham before losing in the final session, so we go up there with a point to prove.”
The home side will be without Tahir for the game as he is now playing in the Caribbean Premier League. Young leg-spinner Ben Whitehead performed well in his absence in their narrow defeat to group leaders Worcestershire Rapids on Friday, and his battle with Foxes’ young spinner Callum Parkinson will be a key one.
Parkinson is Leicestershire’s leading wicket-taker in the tournament and has history on the ground, producing a man-of-the-match performance as the Foxes emerged victorious at Emirates Riverside last season.