Steven Mullaney is welcoming the opportunity of a last chance saloon match-up against Manchester Originals following a “disappointing” 16 run defeat for the Trent Rockets against Birmingham Pheonix in their penultimate group stage game of The Hundred.
Liam Livingstone struck fifty off 31 balls as Phoenix posted 166 for six batting first, with his half-century the top score, before restricting Rockets to 150 for nine.
Mullaney hit 49 from 32 in the Rockets’ chase, but he ran out of support as his side struggled to recover from losing their top three batters cheaply.
“Obviously it is disappointing. It was a score that we felt was about par and we felt we should have chased it,” Mullaney admitted.
“But, the good thing is that if we win that game against Manchester on Sunday we get through, so we are basically in a quarter-final. If we win three games, we win the competition.”
Phoenix’s opening partnership belied the fact they had lost the toss and been inserted, and at 95 for one after 57 balls, openers Finn Allen and Will Smeed, alongside Livingstone, had demonstrated their imperious ability.
However, pace duo Marchant de Lange and Sam Cook hauled the Rockets back into the contest with the wickets of Allen, bowled for 29, Chris Benjamin, caught for seven, and Benny Howell, caught for 12.
Livingstone hit four fours and three sixes on his way to fifty, but Samit Patel, as he so often does, provided the crucial goods when he saw the Phoenix skipper held wonderfully by Mullaney, who showed tremendous awareness at long off to take the catch, throw the ball in the air and step over the rope before grabbing it once again having stepped back in bounds.
“We see a lot of these around these tournaments now. We practice those catches, it isn’t a fluke. The one I got out to wasn't either, so it is very well practiced,” Mullaney laughed.
Miles Hammond hit an unbeaten 38 at the death, but the Rockets’ fightback enabled them to restrict Phoenix to a manageable target.
In response, the Rockets got off to a stuttering start as Dillon Pennington removed Alex Hales for 13 and Dawid Malan for nought, before Pat Brown pressed home the dominance with D’Arcy Short held by Finn Allen.
At 36 for three after the powerplay, and requiring another 131 to win off 75, the situation looked difficult, but that didn’t account for the grit of Patel and Mullaney, who sent the friday night crowd into raptures with lusty boundary blows
“The atmosphere was amazing,” Mullaney said.
“I love playing in front of the Trent Bridge faithful, they have brought into The Hundred and got right behind the Rockets which is great. I hope we can repay that faith for them on Sunday."
The Notts pair fought back from the stutter, and even when Patel fell to veteran Imran Tahir, Lewis Gregory’s 25 meant they still held out a modicum of hope.
However, the pressure on Mullaney eventually became too great as wickets continued to fall around him, with both Tom Moores and Rashid Khan caught in the deep.
Mullaney was the eighth man to fall, and the Rockets’ faint hopes of victory went with him, as a target of 32 off the final ten balls ultimately proved too much for the tail, but hopes remained high for qualification.
“I think most of our team have played a lot of knockout cricket,” Mullaney concluded. “Not just in the Blast but around the world. It stands us in good stead, and we have got a lot of players who know Trent Bridge well and we believe we have a good chance.”
The high octane white ball action at Trent Bridge will continue on Wednesday 25 August as Notts Outlaws face Hampshire Hawks in the quarter final of the Vitality Blast at Trent Bridge.