Notts Outlaws clinched their third victory of this season’s NatWest T20 Blast campaign by defeating Leicestershire Foxes at Grace Road.
The Outlaws scored a mighty 220-4 in their twenty overs, with Riki Wessels top-scoring with 66 and Samit Patel contributing 63.
They added 74 between them, in 7.4 overs, to help speed the Outlaws past their previous best, 215-6, achieved at home to Yorkshire three years ago.
In pursuit of their highest victory target of all-time, Leicestershire gave it a real go, with Greg Smith scoring 102, before closing on 196-5, leaving the Outlaws as winners by 24 runs.
The Outlaws were forced into two team changes through injury. Michael Lumb had already been ruled out with an arm problem and Andy Carter picked up a back niggle during the warm-ups.
Phil Jaques stepped in for Lumb, playing his first T20 match for Notts and first anywhere for 11 months. Luke Fletcher returned to bolster the bowling unit.
Put in, the Outlaws were soon on their way, with Alex Hales hitting the second ball of the match for four then lifting the bowler, Jigar Naik, for an enormous straight six from the next.
The first two overs brought 21 runs but Jaques didn’t have an opportunity to get his first runs until the third, when he eased Anthony Ireland away to the off side fence.
Hales (17) was bowled by Ben Raine in the fourth over, bringing Wessels to the crease. His first delivery went through everything for four byes.
So destructive in the recent championship fixture, Wessels immediately went on the offensive and heaved Nathan Buck for three back-to-back maximums – one over midwicket, one into the screens and then one out of the ground and almost into the closest village.
The replacement ball seemed to slip and came out as a waist high no-ball, which went for 2 more runs. The over eventually cost 25 in total as 71 came from the power-play.
Jaques (22) went lbw, sweeping Naik - but Wessels responded by blasting Rob Taylor onto the roof of the nearby ‘The Cricketers’ pub for his fourth six.
On 36 Wessels pulled Josh Cobb hard and flat to deep midwicket but Raine spilled the offering.
The in-form right-hander plundered his way to a sparkling fifty (22 balls 4x4 4x6) and Patel then hit successive boundaries to bring up the half century stand for the third wicket.
There was no respite for the home attack, although the fielding remained sharp and several runs were saved by their athleticism inside the circle.
Wessels’ brilliant knock reached its eventual conclusion in the fifteenth over when Raine made amends for his earlier drop, catching in the deep off Naik.
Patel kept up the offensive, bludgeoning Nathan Buck for another straight maximum and James Taylor’s first boundary ensured 17 came from the 16th over to leave the Outlaws on 170-3.
Patel reached his 14th T20 fifty (34 balls 6x4 1x6) for Notts – a record, going one ahead of Alex Hales and David Hussey – and celebrated the milestone by belting his next ball for six more.
Bowler Josh Cobb got his reward when Patel (63) then found Ned Eckersley at midwicket, at the end of the same over.
Taylor brought the 200 up with a reverse scoop, off Buck, in the penultimate over, with the big fast bowler bearing the brunt of the punishment before finishing with figures of 4-0-60-0.
The last over saw Notts go past their highest-ever T20 score as Chris Read – playing the 100th T20 match of his career - blasted Raine into the deep, where Matthew Boyce palmed the ball over the ropes for six.
Josh Cobb and Niall O’Brien began the reply in bright evening sunshine and made a spirited start against the imposing total.
Cobb pulled Ajmal Shahzad for a six in the second over and then worked him away for consecutive boundaries to make it 24-0 after two.
Former Fox Harry Gurney broke the opening stand, clattering the ball into O’Brien’s (9) stumps.
Greg Smith played a variety of elegant fours to take the Foxes to 51-1 after 5 overs, ahead of where Notts had been at the same stage.
Cobb, on 38, had a slice of fortune when his drive off Fletcher just evaded Jaques’ dive in the covers.
Smith and Cobb gave it a real go, and both hit Patel for colossal sixes to keep their side in the hunt at the halfway stage of the innings (98-1 compared to Notts 103-2).
Shahzad ended the partnership, of 74 in 7.4 overs (exactly the same as the Wessels / Patel stand earlier) when Cobb drove down the ground to Wessels at long off.
Smith’s fifty came off 32 balls (7x4 1x6) but he lost his next partner quickly. Tom Wells (5) charged at Sam Wood, missed and was stumped comfortably by Read.
Another Smith six off Patel took him into the 70s but the enormous over that was needed kept eluding the home side.
Wood grabbed another wicket as Rob Taylor (3) drove down the park to Steven Mullaney but the batsman had crossed and Smith blasted ten off the next two balls.
Smith’s brilliant hundred came up in the 17th over – but also saw his downfall, with the victory target coming into sight.
He inside edged Gurney for four to go to 95 then pulled the same bowler over the ropes to reach his ton (52 balls 13x4 4x6).
In doing so, Greg Smith emulated Brad Hodge and Jim Allenby – two other Foxes to score T20 hundreds v Notts (Wes Durston of Derbyshire being the only other play to do so).
Barely had the applause died down, than he was being given a standing ovation as he walked back to the pavilion after picking out Mullaney on the ropes.
36 were needed off the last 12 balls but Gurney (4-0-30-2) and Shahzad (4-0-38-1) closed out the contest with some effective death-bowling. Wood (2-0-21-2) was the other successful wicket-taker for Notts, who thereby inflicted Leicestershire’s eighth defeat in a row in all competitions.
The Outlaws’ victory, meanwhile, is their third of the T20 Blast season and they have the opportunity to build on it when they face Derbyshire Falcons at home on Friday evening (June 20th 6pm).