Notts Outlaws 152-8 (Clarke 45, Hales 31) tied with Worcestershire Rapids 152-6 (Libby 52, Whiteley 42, Carter 2-22, Fletcher 2-36).
Worcestershire Rapids and Notts Outlaws shared the spoils in their Vitality Blast opener at New Road, as Steven Mullaney’s men couldn’t quite cash in on blistering cameos from their opening pair.
The Outlaws’ pursuit of 153 slowed demonstrably on a misbehaving pitch once Joe Clarke (45 off 21) and Alex Hales (31 off 18) had departed following an opening stand of 76.
The visitors were left needing two from the final delivery, only for Peter Trego to be run out for 35 attempting the second run that would have won the game.
The Notts’ starting line-up featured eight 2021 Finals Day winners, plus Dane Paterson, Luke Fletcher and debutant leg-spinner Calvin Harrison.
With Steven Mullaney having won the toss and invited the Rapids to bat, there was an air of inevitability about him turning to Matthew Carter in the powerplay, and to the subsequent success the giant off spinner enjoyed.
Brett D’Oliveira (5) and Moeen Ali (6) each failed to connect having been teased down the pitch by the Lincolnshire born twirler and the duo were stumped and bowled respectively making the score 18-2 at the three over mark.
Riki Wessels freed his arms to strike back-to-back boundaries off Dane Paterson. But when the former Outlaw took off for a sharp single to Mullaney at mid-off, the Notts skipper flattened the stumps with a pinpoint underarm hurl to send his former teammate packing for 14.
A powerplay haul of 38-3 was far from an ideal opening for the home side. And Mullaney, on the day he became his club’s tenth captain in T20 cricket, snared a sharp caught & bowled to dismiss Ben Cox for 14, leaving the Rapids 63-4 at halfway.
Harrison’s opening spell as a Nottinghamshire professional cricketer was neat, tidy and accomplished, costing 16 from three overs.
Jake Libby (52*) and Ross Whiteley (42) rebuilt with purpose for the home side with a partnership of 78, the former Notts right hander notching a 42 ball fifty to secure a 20 over total of 152-6 despite two late Luke Fletcher wickets.
In reply, Worcestershire unleashed their overseas fast-bowler Ben Dwarshuis. Joe Clarke, returning to his former home venue, unleashed his finest cover and straight drives for a brace of boundaries.
Josh Tongue was unceremoniously clattered over midwicket then flicked over the left shoulder for a pair of handsome maximums.
Hales, a pillar of patience in comparison, took the best part of three overs playing himself in before striking the final two deliveries of Tongue’s 23 run over for a straight six and a leg side four.
A swap of ends for Dwarshuis merely provided Clarke, with his trademark purpose of strut and brazenly bad intentioned bat swing, with an alternative straight boundary rope to pepper.
The pull stroke from Hales two balls later would have picked out the midwicket fielder perfectly, had it not flown 40 metres over his head.
In the sixth over, Clarke opted to meet Charlie Morris halfway, galloping down the pitch and depositing him into the New Road Stand.
Hales’ subsequent counter punch went 15 rows further back. And, although his attempt to repeat the dose off the final delivery of the over failed to clear Moeen Ali at long-off, Notts had reached the conclusion of the powerplay in a position of utopian strength.
Just five more runs had been added when Clarke joined his opening partner in the pavilion having picked out long on off Ish Sodhi.
The hosts sensed a route back into the contest when Moeen’s shin high grubber trapped the luckless Ben Duckett lbw for six; Notts 85-3 after 8 overs requiring a further 68 from 12.
Whiteley’s catch in the deep to dismiss Tom Moores off Moeen for 12 was up there with Mullaney’s earlier run out as the fixture’s star turn in the field, with Notts 100-4 at the halfway stage needing a further 53.
Moeen’s 2-15 from four expert overs clawed the Rapids back into the contest. And, although Samit Patel accumulated 11 while Trego broke the shackles with the occasional bunt to the boundary, the home side were growing in confidence and stature with each over that passed.
The run out of Patel brought the captain to the crease with 25 more required from 28 deliveries and – when Mullaney (7) was caught by a sprawling Josh Tongue at short third man – Notts required a further six from seven deliveries with Luke Fletcher striding to the middle.
Tongue bowled the final over with Notts requiring five and – following three scampered singles together with a dot and a run out via the bowler’s boot – two were needed off the final ball.
A slip on the turn did nothing to aid Trego’s attempt and Cox’s removal of the bails represented a cruel ending for the 39-year-old who had batted resourcefully in his attempts to arrest the visitors’ slide.
Whether a point was lost or gained this evening will become clear in 13 games’ time.
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