All-round Outlaws down Essex to book Finals Day spot

Yo back up now and give a brother room, the fuse is lit and its about to go BOOM! Or at least Blast as Nottinghamshire hosted Essex in the first of this year’s Natwest T20 Blast quarter finals, played out in front of a near capacity crowd of 13,515, Essex captain Ravi Boapra won the toss and asked Nottinghamshire to bat first in lovely cricketing conditions in the sunshine at Trent Bridge.

If Bopara was happy to win the toss he would have been even happier at half way, as his bowlers restricted Notts to 162 for 7 from their 20 overs and they would have been putting their champagne on ice ice, baby. However it was home captain Dan Christian who was celebrating come the end of the game as the Outlaws’ bowlers bowled with impeccable accuracy and length, to restrict Essex to 123 off 18.4 overs and secure their place at a first finals day since 2010.

The opening power play saw Notts reach 58 for the loss of one wicket, that of Michael Lumb, who was caught off the bowling of left arm seamer Paul Walter in the third over, having hit him for a four the previous ball. This brought Gregg Smith to the crease to join my key man for the Notts side Riki Wessels, who both found the boundary regularly.

Smith hit the first six of the innings in the third over, going down on one knee and not proposing but swatting the veteran David Masters over short fine leg to clear the rope. The hosts brought the 50 up in the 6th over with Wessels again finding the boundary off the 2nd ball of the over, and looking in commanding form.

The end of the power play saw the runs dry up for Notts as Bopara, Zaidi, Ten Doscarte and Napier bowled some very tight overs. Wessels’ stay at the crease was ended by Doscarte in the 9th over for 36 off 29 balls, caught at short fine leg by Masters as he looked to up the scoring rate.

This was the theme for the rest of the innings with batsmen getting in but not accelerating, then getting out trying to up the scoring rate, Essex’s slower bowlers strangling the life out of the Notts innings. The only joy came against Essex’s faster bowlers, with the usually miserly Masters proving expensive and rookie Walter proving even more so going for 31 and 43 respectively from 3 overs apiece.

The only man, apart from Wessels, to really trouble the Essex bowlers was Greg Smith, who reached his 50 in the 15th over, off 31 balls, but was then bowled by Bopara two balls later.

The real stars of the show, however, were the ever green pair of Ryan Ten Doscarte and my other key Man Graham Napier, who bowled economically and dangerously, finishing with the impressive figures of 3 for 19 and 2 for 20 respectively from their 4 over spells.

The Essex innings got off to a quick start with their power play overs returning 62 runs for no loss, with their contrasting openers scoring runs in different ways. If Nick Browne were an artist he would paint delicate watercolours or portraits, caressing the canvas; if Jesse Ryder were an artist he would just throw tins of paint at a wall, very hard and see what happens.

Ryder scored almost exclusively in boundaries, bringing up the Essex 50 at the end of the 5th over with a beautifully brutal cover drive for four off Imran Tahir. That over however seemed to jog the memory of Notts captain Dan Christian, reminding him how the slower bowlers had been the brake which was applied to their innings.

After one more over of pace, in the form of Harry Gurney in the power play, Christian turned to his battery of spin and military medium bowlers in the shape of Mullaney, Tahir and Patel. They applied that same brake to the Essex innings, handily helped by the unfortunate run out of Ryder, backing up in Steven Mullaney’s first over, the 8th of the innings for 47 of 30 balls.

This, coupled with the exceptional bowling of the three Outlaws slower bowlers, choked the life of the Essex Innings, with the Essex batsmen unable to find the boundary. Bar a maximum from Ashar Zaidi in the 11th over Essex did not reach the boundary between the 6th and 17thovers, meaning they were always behind the rate.

During this time Essex also lost regular wickets, as the batsmen all looked to unsuccessfully accelerate the scoring. Browne, Zaidi, Westley and Ten Doscarte all fell in this period, to the exceptional bowling of Samit Patel.

By the time Graham Napier fell for a duck in the 18th over of his final T20 game for Essex, to the bowling of Mullaney, the game was gone and Notts fans were already looking up train times to Edgbaston for finals day on August 20th. Essex were finally bowled out for a disappointing 123 in 18.4 overs. In a game in which at half way they would’ve been confident of winning, the taste of defeat in another quarterfinal will be even worse.

Nottinghamshire, on the other hand, will be celebrating long into the night as they finally break their quarter final whoodo and reach finals day after five consecutive defeats at this stage. They have Patel, Mullaney and Tahir to thank for the victory, in the main, for their superlative spell of bowling, their 12 overs going for just 60 runs and claiming 7 wickets between the three of them, which not only put the brakes on the Essex innings, but smashed it into a concrete wall and stopped it dead.

Man of the Match

You could pick any of the three bowlers who halted the Essex innings so viciously, Mullaney, Tahir or Patel would all be worthy winners, but it has to be Samit Patel. His spell of 4 overs 4 for 20 changed the course of the game, stopping Essex in their tracks and dispatching Essex’s middle order back to the dug out. Throw him his useful 23 runs in the Notts innings and the impact he had on this game ensured Notts will be at Edgbaston on August 20th.

 

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