Nottinghamshire 139 for 7 (Clarke 35, Griffiths 3-21) tied with Leicestershire 139 for 7 (Swindells 58, Christian 2-24) – Notts won higher Powerplay score
Leicestershire let a golden opportunity slip through their grasp – literally as well as figuratively – to allow Nottinghamshire to book their place in a Vitality T20 Blast semi-final against Lancashire.
With 17 runs required from the final seven balls, it seemed Leicestershire had held their nerve in a thrilling East Midlands derby. But then Arron Lilley, fielding at midwicket, made a fearsome mess of an apparently simple piece of ground fielding to concede four to Samit Patel when there should have been a single.
Worse was to follow. After Patel had struck a six in the final over, two were required from the final ball to send Nottinghamshire through. When Imad Wasim could only mistime the ball to mid-on, it looked as if he would be limited to a single. But Dieter Klein failed to pick up the ball cleanly and allowed it to pass him by.
With the scores finishing level, the winner was to be decided by the side who had lost fewer wickets. But when that, too, was equal, the qualifier was the score after the Powerplay overs. It meant Nottinghamshire qualified for Finals Day
Perhaps those fielding errors were the result of pressure, perhaps they were the result of the ball having become slippery in the dew but for a Leicestershire side who had fought back from an awful start with the bat and had held their nerve admirably with the ball it was a bitterly disappointing way to let the game slip away.
“We got away with that,” Dan Christian, the Nottinghamshire captain, admitted to Sky afterwards. It was hard to disagree.
By managing just 22 runs in the Powerplay, Leicestershire gave themselves a mountain to climb in the rest of the game. Perhaps surprised by a surface that offered impressive bounce and carry, they managed only one run from the first over and none at all from the third. It represented the fourth worst Powerplay performance by a team batting first in the competition this season.
It wasn’t just the lack of runs, either. Leicestershire also lost two wickets in those first six overs and another from the first ball of the seventh. At 22 for 3, having only managed two boundaries, it looked as if this could be a one-sided encounter.
They did stage something of a comeback. Harry Swindells and Colin Ackermann put on 66 in eight overs, including a spell where they hit 46 off four overs, and by taking 97 off the final 10 overs of the innings, they did give themselves a chance. But, bearing in mind the manner in which the result was decided, that slow start came back to haunt them.
Hanging in there
Leicestershire’s bowlers didn’t deserve to be on the wrong side of this result. They were immaculate almost throughout. With seven bowlers used and only one of them – the unfortunate Lilley, who went for 14 from his only one – proving expensive, it might be harsh to pick out any of them in a performance that was characterised by its strength as a unit.
But Gavin Griffiths, who was on a hat-trick after Ben Duckett lost his leg stump missing a heave across the line and Chris Nash was brilliantly caught after chipping to mid-on, and Will Davis, who came on for the 14th over and nailed his slower-balls nervelessly, were especially impressive among the seamers.
Ackerman enjoyed a fine all-round performance, too. After contributing 43 with the bat, he claimed three wickets with his waspish offbreaks including the apparently key ones of Joe Clarke, who looked in sublime touch before mishitting one to long off, and Tom Moores, who looked as if he were taking his side to victory before he lost his off stump to one that gripped just enough to beat his stroke.
But non one bowled better than left-arm spinner Callum Parkinson. Despite bowling his first three overs in the Powerplay, the spell only cost 17 runs. He then returned for the 15th over with Nottinghamshire desperate for quick runs and conceded just four more.
More than that, though, he produced the ball of the night to account for Alex Hales. Pitching on leg stump, gripping and spinning past Hales’ bat, it hit middle stump and suggested that his brother Matt may not be the only international spinner in the family. It really was a lovely piece of bowling.
This must have been a frustrating season for Patel. Despite having represented England in all three formats of the game, he currently finds himself struggling to maintain a place in Nottinghamshire’s top seven and had faced only seven balls (and made a top score of 4 not out) in the competition before this game.
But, aged 35 and a veteran of 287 games in this format, he showed his composure and his class here. Yes, he had some fortune with the fielding, for sure. But the six he hit from the fourth ball of the final over – a glorious drive that flew over long-off – must have been partially responsible for ratcheting up the pressure that resulted in Klein’s misfield.
Even before that final over, there had been three fours and a sense that Patel knew that if he could take the game deep enough, if he could put some pressure back on Leicestershire, he would be giving his team a chance. Ultimately, he held his nerve and they didn’t.
With no side having won this tournament as many times as Leicestershire, it probably sounds incongruous to suggest they were on the verge of a giant killing. But the last of their three victories, in 2011, came the last time they reached Finals Day. Only once since, in 2017, had they reached a quarter-final before this. They have a young side with only three internationals including Klein, who has represented Germany twice.
Nottinghamshire, meanwhile, had six internationals in their side including two overseas players. It’s only a partially unfair joke to suggest their youth system has its base at Leicestershire Grace Road; it’s far from unusual for them to utilise their superior spending power to lure the best players away from Leicestershire: Stuart Broad, James Taylor and Harry Gurney among them.
But though it is Notts who progress, and although you suspect this result will sting long into the winter, Leicestershire may feel they made their point rather eloquently in this game. They might not have any money, they might not have many big names and they might not have an especially lovely recent record. But with a fine team spirit, with some clever plans put in place by their enterprising coach, Paul Nixon, they showed once again that they are a team to be respected in this format, at least.
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