Notts Outlaws overcame a stuttering display with the bat to put themselves on the brink of the NatWest T20 Blast quarter finals with a 31-run victory over Leicestershire Foxes at Trent Bridge.
After posting only 121 for nine, after electing to bat first, the home side bounced back ruthlessly to bowl Leicestershire out for just 90 in 18.3 overs.
The home side struggled to find any real momentum in their innings and were indebted to a score of 44 from Samit Patel to set any sort of total but it proved to be more than competitive as the Foxes’ reply got off to a dreadful start.
Requiring just over a run a ball, the visitors lost five wickets in the opening powerplay before eventually succumbing to their lowest-ever total in the competition.
In front of a noisy crowd of 10,147 the Outlaws’ completed their programme of home fixtures with a magnificent display with the ball, with Luke Fletcher again catching the eye, with an impressive return of 3-11.
“It’s going for me at the moment and long may it continue,” he said. “We’re just taking it game by game but we’re confident as a bowling unit that we’ll always get the job done.”
Fletcher changed the complexion of the afternoon by removing both Josh Cobb and Greg Smith early in the Foxes innings.
“In my first over I just tried to put it good areas and they both nicked off. Getting Smith early was so crucial.”
“I’ll always back myself to bowl a Yorker,” - Luke Fletcher
He then returned to flatten Atif Sheikh’s stumps, with one of his trademark full-pitched deliveries.
“I’ll always back myself to bowl a Yorker,” he added. “If I put it up there, they shouldn’t be able to get it away for runs either.”
Michael Lumb, back in the side after being unavailable for the last 4 T20 Blast matches (although two were rained off), punched two boundaries away during the opening over, bowled by former Outlaw Charlie Shreck.
Atif Sheikh began at the Pavilion End and made a huge impression in an unbroken spell of 4-0-11-2. He clipped he top of Lumb’s off peg (12) as the batsman missed a pull and then knocked back Alex Hales’ (18) middle pole, with the right-hander trying to whip the ball away through the leg side.
23-year old Sheikh, born in Nottingham and a former member of the Trent Bridge junior sides, clearly relished his return to the city, playing just his second game for the Foxes.
In between his two wickets Shreck had fired one into the pads of Riki Wessels (1), who was sent on his way after a lengthy delay.
James Taylor (12) was also given out leg before, missing a reverse, off Scott Styris. James Franklin (9) picked out Ben Raine at mid off, to give Josh Cobb a wicket and then Chris Read (6) was also given out lbw, this time off Jigar Naik.
Samit Patel (44) struggled to find his usual fluency before lifting Naik over the ropes for 6, in the 15th over. It broke a run of 11 overs without a boundary.
Patel’s innings came to an untidy end, run out by wicketkeeper Niall O’Brien in the penultimate over, as he tried to scramble a run from a Steven Mullaney (10 not out) dab behind the wicket.
An innings that had stuttered to find any rhythm or momentum couldn’t be saved by a grandstand finish with Ajmal Shahzad (4) and Luke Fletcher (0) both hitting Cobb to fielders from the final two deliveries.
Notts needed to make early inroads if they were to have any chance but conceded 7 from Harry Gurney’s opening over.
The second over, though, was telling – a double wicket maiden bowled by Fletcher, it began and ended with Cobb (5) and Smith (0), both nicking through to Read.
Smith had scored a century when the two sides met at Grace Road last month and his dismissal visibly inspired the home contingent, on and off the field.
The atmosphere intensified further when Gurney then grabbed a wicket in the third over, although he was amongst the first to sprint out to deep square leg and congratulate Franklin for a stunning catch on the run to remove O’Brien (6).
Ned Eckersley (2) pressed the self-destruct button in the next over, pushing straight to Mullaney at mid off and going – unsuccessfully- for a sharp single.
The pick-up and throw was exceptional as was the celebration. It left the visitors reeling on 17-4 after four overs.
That became 24-5 in the 6th, as Shahzad got his name in the wickets column – collecting the huge scalp of Styris (3), given out lbw, playing around a full-pitched delivery.
Tom Wells (8) hoisted Patel into the midwicket hands of Hales to make it 45-6 and two balls later a catastrophic mix up saw Matt Boyce (20) run out by Shazhad’s return from the deep.
Mullaney caught and bowled Naik (0) to make it 47-8 and it could have been worse for the Foxes as Raine hit Patel down the ground – a wonderful effort saw Wessels claim the catch one-handed – but have to throw it back into the field of play as he toppled over the rope.
Some late resistance saw Shreck (10) swing Gurney over the deep midwicket fence and Sheikh demonstrated that he has something to offer with the bat as well, twice hitting Mullaney for six before Fletcher ended the contest with his third victim.
The victory moves the Outlaws Back into second place in the table and holding their qualification hopes in their own hands. One point will secure a quarter final berth but wins against Northants on Wednesday and Yorkshire, next Friday, would confirm a fifth straight home quarter final.
The Royal London One-Day Cup is now just around the corner, and tickets for Notts Outlaws v Surrey on Sunday 10 August are just £1 when bought in advance. Click here to secure your seats.