Notts Outlaws were given the roughest of rides before booking their bus to Birmingham with a knife-edge quarter-final victory at Trent Bridge.
Needing two from the final ball to tie the scores and win by virtue of countback, Imad Wasim and Samit Patel scampered between the wickets to secure the requisite runs and demoralise a Leicestershire side who had wrestled back control of the game.
Samit’s gargantuan six over extra cover had re-ignited a run chase that lurched from measured, to pressured to unlikely at an alarming rate.
Casual observers would be forgiven for presuming that the visitors had failed to get to grips with the conditions or the occasion as they spluttered to 139 for 7 having been inserted by Outlaws’ captain Dan Christian. As time elapsed, their efforts were granted retrospective credit and Notts were left reflecting on a lucky escape.
Christian has proved an effective tinker-man this term, with habitually dynamic bowling changes suffocating the Leicestershire top order who added just 22 runs for the loss of two wickets in the powerplay. That proved pivotal as powerplay totals were used to separate the tie.
Imad Wasim set the tone with one run conceded from the game’s opening over before Patel came on to bowl out Gareth Delany as he swung and missed with reckless abandon. Steven Mullaney redoubled the pressure with his first ball, a full, slower delivery clipped to the safe hands of Ben Duckett.
Jake Ball introduced himself with a wicket maiden as intelligent variations of pace induced Arron Lilley to chip to Alex Hales. Colin Ackermann (43) and Harry Swindells (58) went about the rebuild in workmanlike fashion but suffered for the lack of a supporting cast.
The Outlaws’ batting order fell well short of peak power as the October chill set-in. Alex Hales scored two boundaries before he was bowled by Callum Parkinson. Joe Clarke fell to the outstanding catch of the game, a committed diving effort from Ackermann who made considerable ground at wide mid-wicket.
This was a game bossed by the bowlers. Matt Carter’s one-over cameo accounted for Ackermann who clipped his loosener to Chris Nash at short fine leg. Mullaney and Carter were economical and for Leicestershire, Gavin Griffiths impacted the game with figures 3-21 including the dismissals of Duckett and Nash in consecutive balls at the end of his first and start of his second over.
Ackermann himself turned the game back in Leicestershire’s favour with Dan Christian finding Will Davis at cow corner before the visiting captain clean bowled Tom Moores.
Television replays showed that Notts had been fortuitous in several lbw calls. Lewis Hill had been given out despite impact between pad and ball proving outside the line while Christian and Moores survived valid appeals while the umpires remained motionless.
Lancashire lie in wait in Saturday’s semi-final with Gloucestershire and Surrey also competing for a place in domestic cricket’s season-ending showpiece with several narrative arcs to be concluded. With team changes considered unlikely, Chris Nash will look to deliver a trophy in his final act in Notts colours, while Ben Duckett returns to the stage of his 49 in last year’s semi-final; a not out knock that fell agonisingly short of delivering victory for the Outlaws.
With their places assured, each will have a chance to write their next chapter. Notts were fortunate here, but proved their class in the group stage and will hope to recapture their best form.
Rain, Duckworth-Lewis and bowl outs could all come in to play this weekend. Once again, Notts will seek to find any which way to win.