A stunning century from Riki Wessels helped Notts Outlaws get their NatWest T20 Blast campaign up and running with a narrow six-run victory over Derbyshire Falcons at Trent Bridge.
Wessels made 110 as Notts powered their way to 227-3, their highest score in the competition’s history, after being asked to bat first.
The 31-year old scored his runs from just 54 balls and hit 11 fours and seven sixes to become the first Outlaws batsman to reach three figures for the county in T20 cricket.
Brendan Taylor shared in a third-wicket stand of 153 with Wessels, before closing on 67 not out. Dan Christian applied the finishing touches with a brutal, unbeaten knock of 32 from only 18 balls.
Derbyshire, who had won three of their first four matches, stepped up to the challenge of maintaining a run-rate of over 11 an over for much of the game before falling narrowly short, closing on 221-5, with Wayne Madsen unbeaten on 85, made from only 44 balls.
In front of a Trent Bridge record domestic gate of 14,123, the result was in the balance until the final over of the night, but Jake Ball, who finished with 2-51, held his nerve.
The Outlaws had experienced a turbulent start to their Blast campaign by losing their first two matches, as well as losing the services of three members of their first team squad.
Their last fixture had been the defeat to Birmingham Bears at Edgbaston 13 says ago, a contest that saw fast bowler Luke Fletcher sustain a season-ending head injury.
Preparations for this match were then further disrupted with the announcements that two of their top order batsmen were retiring from the game; Michael Lumb through an ankle injury and Greg Smith, keen to pursue opportunities outside the game.
Losing Alex Hales and Samit Patel inside the first four overs, both to Madsen, who took 2-32, gave no indication that the county’s fortunes were about to change – but they did, quite dramatically.
Wessels took 20 from the fifth over, bowled by Matt Henry, and 18 from the seventh, bowled by Imran Tahir. The South African leg-spinner featured in the Notts side that made it through to Finals’ Day last summer but endured a miserable return as his four wicketless overs went for 52 runs.
Taylor, returning to the side to fill the void left by Lumb’s departure, went through his full repertoire of shots; reverse-sweeping his first ball for four and then flicking, driving and caressing his way to his first T20 half century for Notts, reaching the landmark from 35 balls.
His major hand was in getting the rampant Wessels back on strike as quickly as he could and the right-hander made the most of his opportunity by reaching his hundred from exactly 50 balls before hitting Alex Hughes to square leg.
The Falcons’ openers put on 55 before Harry Gurney removed Matt Critchley for 20 in the fifth over. His partner, Billy Godleman had taken two sixes from the bowling of Luke Wood on his way to 43 from 19 deliveries but then lost his middle stump to Ball, who was returning after almost a month out with a knee injury.
Madsen and Luis Reece had their side 22 runs ahead at the halfway stage of the innings, but New Zealand international Ish Sodhi dragged things back towards the hosts by having the latter caught for 27.
The leg-spinner’s next over cost 25 though as Madsen stormed to a 29-ball half century which had contained six fours and three maximums.
An improbable chase suddenly began to look achievable as Madsen began to find the boundary at will; 57 were required from five overs and 49 from four.
Gurney, who took 2-34, then struck for a second time, having Gary Wilson taken at long off. Ball bowled the final over, with 21 still required and it looked all done and dusted when he removed Hughes after three deliveries.
Henry swatted a six and single, but Ball was not to be denied, sparking celebrations in the stands and in the home dug-out.
Neither side has long to dwell on the result. Notts are back in action tomorrow afternoon when they host defending champions Northants Steelbacks, while Derbyshire go to Edgbaston on Sunday, to face Birmingham Bears.