East Midlands vs West Midlands, Nottinghamshire vs Birmingham, Outlaws vs Bears for the Natwest T20 Blast Trophy on a beautiful night in Birmingham: what more could you want? Runs, excitement and entertainment and that is exactly what we got.
With Birmingham Bears captain Grant Elliott calling correctly and inviting Notts to bat first, who managed to set 191 to win as they scored 190 for 4 in their 20 overs. In the end it was too much for a Bears side they had played twice in qualifying, and had an even record with going into this match.
In the final, however, it was the Outlaws who came out on top by 22 runs.
When you look at the Nottinghamshire batting line up, Hales and Wessels at the top of the order catch your eye. Yet they both fell cheaply and, along with Tom Moores, and were back in the pavilion as Samit Patel joined Brendon Taylor at the crease.
England international Chris Woakes had dispensed with Hales and Moores in one over, and Notts looked in a bit of trouble at 30 for 3 after 5 overs.
If you’re in a bit of trouble though, you want experienced heads at the crease and in Patel and Taylor that is exactly what they had. They didn’t panic and they beautifully put together a partnership that dragged Nottinghamshire from the brink of an average total to the highest first innings total of the day. They asked the Bears to score at nine and a half an over to win the trophy, for the second time, or fail and hand Notts their first T20 title.
The partnership Patel and Taylor put together was a thing of beauty, which would not have looked out of place in the National Gallery, the Louvre or the Tate Modern. It was wonderfully crafted, exceptionally paced and was simply exquisite to look at.
They took their time, and when the time was right and the ball was there they found the gap. They both brought up their fifties in the 17th over, Taylor off 42 balls with six 4s and one 6 and Patel’s off 36 balls with three 4s and the same number of 6s.
When Taylor fell two overs later he had added a further 15 runs and his job was done and, as Patel embraced him as he walked off, you felt they knew they had put the Outlaws in a position to win this game.
If Taylor and Patel had laid the foundations for the victory, captain Dan Christian came in and added the coping stones as he blasted 24 off 8 balls, including a last over which went for 23. As Patel walked off the field unbeaten on 64, with his skipper, he would have known he had gone a long way to winning Nott’s first T20 title.
When the Bears found themselves in a similar position at the end of the powerplay, at 38 for 3 with both openers back in the pavilion along with the big hitting Hose, they knew they needed a similar partnership to the Patel and Taylor one.
In an innings that promised so much, however, it never quite materialised. The Notts bowlers never really letting the Bears batsmen get in the game enough to think they could win it, but also never really dominated it enough to completely put them out of it.
It was an innings held together by Sam Hain, who scored 72 off 44 balls with five 4s and three 6s, and had he not fallen when he did off the first ball of the 19th over, caught at mid-off off Harry Gurney needing 34 runs to win from two overs, they may have stood a chance. But that wicket left the Bears with simply not enough firepower in the middle to bring home the win.
Where Patel and Taylor had each other no one stayed with Hain long enough to mount a serious challenge to the Notts total. Colin De Grandhomme and Aaron Thomason offered some support, with 27 and 26 respectively, but aside from that there was only Pollock that reached double figures, and that was never going to push the Bears to the title.
No one would argue that Nottinghamshire are worthy winners of the title this season, having the best record in the qualifying stages across both groups and playing excellent cricket throughout.
This result leaves them with two trophies in the cabinet, following their Royal London Cup triumph earlier in the season, and in the hunt for a third as they sit top of the Specsavers County Championship division two.
It’s a fantastic achievement for a club that was relegated last season and also failed to win a white ball trophy. Whether or not they can repeat it next season will be intriguing to see, but one thing is for sure: they will not die wondering.