Scott Oliver at Trent Bridge
Amidst the confusion caused by runners and the rules for tied finishes, Hampshire pulled off the shock of the Friends Life t20 quarter-finals by beating Notts in an extraordinary see-saw encounter at Trent Bridge, silencing a raucous and partisan 11,127 crowd. With four balls left, and Man of the Match Neil McKenzie collapsed in a heap having scampered a bye from Andy Carter’s bouncer, Hampshire required 11 runs to overhaul Notts 178 for 7; another dot ball then might have sewn the game up for Outlaws.
However, the South African, who finished unbeaten on 79 from 49 balls, scooped a four over short fine leg then crashed another boundary through extra cover to leave just three required from the final two balls. Chaos then descended as the penultimate ball was drilled to Samit Patel at mid off, who threw down the stumps, but James Vince had scampered a single, then turned for a second as Carter retrieved the ball. A direct hit at the keeper’s end would have seen McKenzie run out, with the incoming batsman asked to score a single from the final ball to tie (and win on powerplay count-back). As it was, with scores level, McKenzie stroked the final ball through the covers for four to seal the victory.
It was the third televised game between the two this season – Notts having previously won home and away in the CB40 – but the first ever meeting over the shortest of courses. The 2010 Champions welcomed back Victorian all-rounder, Glenn Maxwell (recently called into the provisional Australian World T20 squad), but were otherwise unchanged from last week’s match.
Notts altered the balance of their side slightly from the group stages, finding it impossible to leave out one of their buccaneering batsman – probably Rikki Wessels – and so, with Darren Pattinson ruled out by injury, went in with three young frontline seamers (Carter, Jake Ball, Harry Gurney), Samit Patel for spin and Steve Mullaney’s medium pace as the fifth option, all of which preserved arguably the competition’s most potent top six.
Perhaps fearing what such a line-up could do and unsure of what might be a defendable total, or maybe believing that the ball would slide on to the bat under lights, Hampshire opted to bowl first and were soon celebrating the wicket of England T20 opener Alex Hales, who only a month ago crashed 99 on this ground, but here chipped limply to short extra-cover.
Given the complexion of their side, it was inevitable that Notts would adopt the modern method and continue to swing hard, and Riki Wessels’ took 18 from Mascarenhas’ first four deliveries, briefly threatening to seize control of the game, before skewing to short third man.
James Taylor, scorer of 189 runs against the Hawks this year, couldn’t really get going here, which wasn’t a great problem as the muscular Michael Lumb, playing against his old county, contributed 39 from 32 balls, helping Notts to 57 for 2 from the Powerplay. Both he and Taylor were caught at backward point attempting to force balls not quite there to hit (as were Patel and Katich, later, suggesting tennis ball bounce), bringing Patel to the wicket, and he proceeded to play a gem of an innings – having taken 3 for 26 from his four overs, he can consider himself hugely unlucky to finish on the losing side.
In conjunction with Adam Voges, skippering to allow Chris Read a break from the frenzy of T20, the pair added 62 in 42 balls. While the Australian ticked it over, it was Patel who peppered the boundary, reaching his half-century from just 30 balls as Notts plundered 60 from the final 5 overs. Voges’ lack of brute power was evident in his dismissal, chipping to long off from the canny Danny Briggs, easily the best bowler on either side and the only one to go for less than 6 runs per over.
Notts might have liked another ten runs – who doesn’t – but they were given an early lift when Harry Gurney produced the ball of the match to nick off Jimmy Adams. Then James Vince, who scored a century here last time out here, clothed a pull from Carter, a bowler who brings an air of vigilante farmer to proceedings, the sort of face you might see knocking at your window in the dead of night, brandishing a pitchfork and a flaming torch and asking whether you’d been having sexual congress with his kin. Little did he know that his evening would end with such heartbreak.
Hampshire maintained their impetus, first through MacKenzie and Katich – who, with 58 and 56 Test caps respectively, are two vastly experienced cricketers and tough for 21-year-old Jake Ball to keep quite at the best of times, let alone when there is no bowling cover – and then Liam Dawson, who responded to the mini-crisis provoked by Patel taking two wickets in the tenth over with a sprightly cameo of 30 from 18 balls that lifted the pressure from McKenzie. The second of these wickets, Maxwell stumped to a ball that spun nicely, left Hants at 78 for 5 and prompted a delirous, Imran Tahir-esque celebration from Patel as he ran to the Larwood and Voce stand in jubilation.
The 50-run alliance between Dawson and McKenzie reconstructed the innings without losing tempo, and was followed by another half-century stand as Mascarenhas helped keep the Hawks’ noses (or beaks) a few runs in front of where Notts had been.
In the end, much like last year against Somerset, Notts were unable to defend 45 from the last four overs and are left to contemplate having a home quarter-final snatched from their grasp in the endgame for the second year in succession.
Top of the agenda in Mick Newell’s post-mortem will be the balance of their side and the consequent lack of experience and options in the bowling unit – specifically, whether there could have been a case for ripping up selection policy and including the County Championship’s leading wicket-taker (and last year’s top six-hitter), Andre Adams.
Hampshire, meanwhile, will face Somerset in the semi-final, a repeat of the dramatic 2010 decider, with Sussex and Yorkshire completing the Finals Day line-up at Cardiff next month. For them, the dream of the Champions League, along with the shop window that provides for individual players, remains very much alive. For Notts, there are some new wounds that must be licked.