The largest crowd seen at Trent Bridge for some 21 months were treated to a banquet of big hitting as Birmingham Bears ran out victors by 18 runs.
The Bears’ total of 229-5 was a T20 record on Notts’ home turf, and while the Outlaws pursued their target gamely, the Warwickshire-based outfit punctuated the chase with a string of wickets to take the spoils back down the M42.
The crowd may have been socially distanced in person, but their voices united to form the feverish Friday-night fervour for which Trent Bridge is famed.
It was somewhat different to the warm hubbub which reverberated around the venue for the return of spectators to the red-ball game, but was an equally welcome sound.
The home faithful, however, had to wait until halfway through the fifth over to give their vocal cords their first serious workout.
The Bears’ opening pair were belligerent up to that point, but Adam Hose attempted one audacious sweep to many, falling lbw to Fletcher for 27.
But the visitors continued to pick their shots expertly, motoring to 70 by the conclusion of the Powerplay, and to 100 from the evening’s first nine overs.
Ed Pollock brought up his half-century with a hoick into the Yu Energy Stand for six. He remained the aggressor-in-chief as Will Rhodes departed, Calvin Harrison claiming his maiden wicket for Notts in an over which, while it still cost nine runs, began to stem the tide.
And nothing restricts a run-rate quite like a flurry of wickets, with Pollock comprehensively outdone just five balls later, bowled by Matt Carter for 62.
As so often in recent T20 history at Trent Bridge, the Outlaws were indebted to a trio of twirlers, Carter and Harrison stifling the visiting batsmen, and Samit Patel scurrying from short third man to pouch Dan Mousley off the Lincolnshire-born right-hander.
That, though, brought the Bears’ big signing – in every sense of the phrase – to the crease.
Broad and brawny of build, Carlos Brathwaite looked, physically, to be a giant amongst men.
In hitting 31 off the 19th over, the West Indian international gave an indication of his international class, until he hit a short ball from Fletcher to a tumbling Joe Clarke at long on.
Brathwaite departed for 44 from 18 balls as Fletcher’s final over went for seven, with the Bears setting the Outlaws 230 to win.
It was the highest total ever seen in T20 cricket at Trent Bridge, the highest ever made against the Outlaws.
And when Alex Hales departed for a duck, Peter Trego arrived in the middle to take on a challenge to match any he’d faced in his two decades in the game.
A clipped four and a pair of sixes – one whipped, one lofted lustily on the half-volley – showed that the right-hander meant business on the eve of his 40th birthday.
Trego found himself with a new partner in Ben Duckett after Joe Clarke edged Brathwaite behind, but his own enterprising cameo would come to an end as he chipped Tim Bresnan into the paws of Rhodes.
Duckett continued in the company of Tom Moores, the duo mixing the orthodox (a textbook cut to pierce the circle from Moores) with the frankly outrageous (a wristy flick from Duckett that drew astonished gasps from the assembled throng) to take 17 runs from Dan Mousley’s second over.
A brace of big hits from Moores and a pair of short-armed clips from Duckett all found the crowd to keep Notts in with a shout, the Outlaws’ Finals Day matchwinner of 2020 reaching 50 from 25 balls as the hosts reached 113-3 at halfway.
Duckett would fall soon after, and while Notts remained ahead of a mountainous required rate as Steven Mullaney joined Moores in peppering the fence, Mullaney’s subsequent departure for 11 installed the Bears in the box seat.
Samit Patel showed all his class in threading the eye of the needle behind square on the off-side, but while the scoring remained productive, the Bears continued to chip away at the Outlaws’ line-up, Moores’ accomplished knock being curtailed on 38.
Young all-rounder Calvin Harrison, the ink barely dry on his three-month contract, showed the audacity of youth in switch-hitting Jake Lintott to the ropes.
Fletcher, too, found the fence – and beyond – as he and Harrison took Notts past 200 for the first time against their West Midlands opponents.
However, it was not a landmark to trigger celebration as first Fletcher, then Carter, faced the walk back to the dug-out and the Bears consolidated their stranglehold on the fixture.
A downloable version of the scorecard can be found here.
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