Steven Mullaney edged Nottinghamshire Outlaws closer to the NatWest T20 Blast quarter-finals with a proficient all round display at Edgbaston.
Mullaney gave Nottinghamshire a flying start to their innings by clobbering three sixes in his 14-ball 36 then took two wickets for 27 in four tidy overs of medium pace and held a stunning one-handed catch at mid off to halt the Bears captain Varun Chopra in full flow.
Mullaney’s wickets included the important scalp of William Porterfield who holed out to James Franklin at long on from the ball after he had completed the only half-century of the match and his third of the campaign.
“James Franklin asked me when he was sat in the dugout what a competitive total was and I said we could defend 160," said Mullaney.
"We were 158 so I thought we were in the game. I thought the death bowling execution from Harry Gurney and Luke Fletcher was absolutely outstanding.
“We are not going to count our chickens about the quarter-finals. We will keep playing the way we are hopefully and keep getting victories and push for a home quarter final spot."
Porterfield straight drove Ajmal Shahzad for a huge six onto the third tier of the pavilion on his way to a 40-ball 50 but then picked out Franklin aiming to clear the ropes again.
Most batsmen struggled to time the ball on a sluggish pitch but Mullaney early onslaught which included two leg side sixes in an over off Chris Wright, ensured that Nottinghamshire scored 60 in the powerplay overs.
Mullaney miscued Boyd Rankin to extra cover but Rankin then came in from some heavy punishment from James Taylor who took three leg side sixes in an over off the England fast bowler.
Those proved to be Taylor’s only boundaries as off-spinners Jeetan Patel and Ateeq Javid applied the brakes by taking the pace off the ball. But Taylor worked the ball around intelligently for his 47-ball 44 which ensured that Nottinghamshire’s total of 158 for nine was competitive.
The Bears had opted to bowl first when Chopra won the toss because they fancied chasing down a total but their innings lost momentum after Mullaney’s stunning catch broke Chopra’s opening stand of 51 with Porterfield.
Mullaney’s catch atoned for putting down a more straightforward effort off Porterfield earlier in Shahzad’s over, a lapse that cost 21 runs. Samit Patel pegged the Bears back by taking two for 28 which included the wickets of Jonathon Webb, bowled second ball, and Rikki Clarke who had just lifted the slow left-armer for a six over midwicket.
Poterfield’s dismissal signalled the end for the Bears and two nerveless final overs from Harry Gurney and Luke Fletcher denied them the 19 runs they needed for victory.
Javid fell to an athletic catch by Sam Wood on the wide long on boundary off the first ball of the final over and an edged four from Jeetan Patel penultimate ball, when two sixes were needed, ended the Bears’ challenge.
The Bears, who closed on 152 for six, face the prospect of failing to progress to the quarter-finals and again missing out on the competitions Finals Day at their own headquarters for the sixth time.