Alex Hales more than made up for this week’s latest England snub as he propelled North Group leaders Notts Outlaws to a guaranteed home T20 Blast quarter-final.
The big-hitting Notts opener might be deemed surplus to requirements even by England’s reserves, but he made short work of a reduced target in the showdown of the top two against Yorkshire.
In a late-starting rain-hit contest limited to seven overs-a-side, Yorkshire could only post 60-3. Not nearly enough.
Hales (31 off just nine balls, capped by three sixes in four balls) and the equally-pyrotechnical Peter Trego (a comparatively cautious 29 off 13) got home with an astonishing 20 balls to spare.
“To be at the other end to Alex, even at my age, that’s still a privilege,” said Trego. “He is one of the best in the world and I can’t believe England can still have the audacity to leave him out”
Although the Tykes still look pretty sure to join holders Notts in the last eight thanks to Durham’s defeat by Derbyshire, the only other side through to the last eight are Kent in the South Group.
Their nine-wicket win over Surrey cemented their place on top, two points clear of Sussex, for whom Ravi Bopara rolled back the years with an unbeaten 62 to see off his old side Essex.
Brett D’Oliveira starred as Worcestershire took advantage of a weakened Birmingham Bears to win the Midlands derby by 49 runs at New Road.
Worcestershire totalled 174-6 thanks largely to opener D’Oliveira’s 45 and some typical late fireworks from captain Ben Cox, who also made light of being overlooked by England again this week by hitting 43 off 28.
Bears skipper Will Rhodes’ T20 best 4-34 became irrelevant when the badly-depleted Bears subsided to 125 all out.
They were almost on course at 81-2 at halfway, after Ed Pollock’s 53, but D’Oliveira took three wickets in nine balls and fellow spinner Ish Sodhi collected three in an over to take 4-24 as the Bears were bowled out in the 18th over.
“Brett set the tone when he came on and got the wicket of Sam Hain with his first delivery,” said Sodhi.
On top of having their attack decimated by injury, the Bears also lost star West Indian Carlos Brathwaite a week ago when he tested positive for Coronavirus – and replacement Kyle Mayers was prevented from making his expected debut by Covid protocol.
The two sides meet again at Edgbaston next Friday night when another Worcestershire win would end the Bears’ hopes.
Lancashire Lightning kept their quarter-final hopes alive as New Zealand opener Finn Allen’s third fifty in 11 Blast innings set up an eight-wicket win over Northants Steelbacks.
Liam Hurt (3-22) and Danny Lamb (2-27) did most to limit Northants to 142-8.
Allen then hit seven fours and three sixes in his 66 off 37 balls as Lancashire won with 26 balls to spare.
But Yorkshire Vikings are left waiting after coming second best to Notts Outlaws at Trent Bridge.
They now have 15 points – and must lose their last two and either Durham or the Bears win their last two, and Worcestershire also win their last game – to be denied.
The Tykes were done no favours by the unlikely spectacle of North Group bottom side Derbyshire Falcons finally coming good as they successfully chased the night’s highest first-innings score at Chester-le-Street,
Durham posted 176-9 but Derbyshire won off the last ball on 180-4 thanks chiefly to Leus du Plooy (47) and an unbroken 64-run stand from Matt Critchley (33 off 22) and Brooke Guest (34 off 20).
Kent Spitfires stretched their lead at the top with their eighth win in 12 group matches to beat Surrey.
New Zealand fast bowler Adam Milne took 2-13 as Kent restricted Surrey to just 128-7 on a sluggish Oval surface.
Jordan Clark managed an unbeaten 37 from 31 balls, and there were brief flurries from Jamie Overton and Tim David as 86 came from the last 10 overs.
Openers Daniel Bell-Drummond (53 off 37 balls) and England’s Joe Denly (31) put on 64 in eight overs to set up a comfortable chase completed by Ollie Robinson with 27 balls to spare.
“It was a really bad day,” said Surrey director of cricket Alec Stewart. Kent gave us a lesson in all three facets of the game.”
“That was as perfect as you can get,” said Kent head coach Matt Walker. “We didn’t concede a boundary until the 10th over and then kept our foot on their neck.”
Bopara had not been in the best form in the T20 this season, having made only 85 in six knocks for Sussex Sharks.
But he was simply waiting to unload it all when he met his old side Essex Eagles, with whom he played a starring role to win this trophy just two years ago.
Set 146-9 by Essex at Hove, Sussex looked in trouble at 67-4 in the 10th, but Bopara’s 64 off 46 balls, supported by Delray Rawlins (50 off 29) helped Sussex win with nine balls to spare.
The chances of Gloucestershire themselves qualifying from the South Group were given a boost in the day’s early start at Cheltenham College, where the hosts defended 171-8 to beat Middlesex by 10 runs.
Having lost the toss, Gloucestershire needed a late burst from new father Ryan Higgins, 43 from 25 balls, as they plundered 52 from the final four overs.
Despite Max Holden’s unbeaten 50, Benny Howell then took 3-23 from four overs as the visitors fell short on 161-8.
Hampshire Hawks began the night at the bottom of the group, facing the most unlikely set of results imaginable to stand any chance of making the last eight.
But the manner of their 75-run win over Somerset suggests that the twice winners are still dreaming and have not given up the fight yet. And it was all to do with coming home.
In the first of four successive games on their own patch at the Agaes Bowl, Lewis McManus made 60 not out and Joe Weatherley 50 as their fifth-wicket stand of 66 helped Hampshire pile up 175-6.
But Somerset never even got close, Scott Currie taking 4-24 as the visitors were shot out for 100.
Hampshire are off the bottom, with three games to come. All at home – two on the same day next Friday – Essex in the afternoon, Sussex in the evening, followed by Glamorgan on the Sunday. Could they? Surely not?
Next Friday’s fixtures
Hampshire v Essex (Southampton, 14:00 BST)
Gloucestershire v Surrey (Cheltenham College, 14:30 BST)
Middlesex v Kent (Lord’s, 18:15 BST)
Glamorgan v Somerset (Sophia Gardens, 18:30 BST)
Hampshire v Sussex (Southampton, 19:00 BST)
Lancashire v Durham (Manchester, 18:30 BST)
Leicestershire v Nottinghamshire (Leicester, 18:30 BST)
Northamptonshire v Derbyshire (Wantage Road, 18:30 BST)
Warwickshire v Worcestershire (Edgbaston, 18:30 BST)