Samit Patel and Steven Mullaney hit centuries as Nottinghamshire delivered a record List-A chase in England to reach the final of the Royal London One-Day Cup.
The two batted together for 23.4 overs accumulating 185 runs, enough to chase down 371 with three balls to spare – despite Jamie Porter taking three wickets for Essex. That came after Alastair Cook bludgeoned his fifth successive 50+ score with a ton, while Ryan ten Doeschate also hit a century to appease the Chelmsford fans, making 370-5.
But the Eagles’ knockout demons came back to haunt them, with this just their second defeat of their competition – following up quarter-final losses in the past three seasons in a 743-run thriller.
Nottinghamshire were one of the few beneficiaries of England’s early Champions Trophy exit, as they were graced by Alex Hales at the top of the order to partner world T20 champion Michael Lumb.
Lumb miscued Porter to short backward point for the breakthrough, but Notts remained rampant, peppering the cover boundary with baffling, yet beautifully timed, regularity. The bid for the highest successful domestic List A chase was on.
Sublimity meeting wafitness was the biggest head-scratcher of all, and when Hales – seemingly plumb lbw – was awarded four runs, that proved the last straw for Porter.
Fired up, two balls later Hales was bowled looking to up a rate already menacingly high, while Wessels (23) followed in a similar suit. This remember is a man who, when just 22, said he would bowl out Test opener David Warner, and subsequently did when the Australians came to town. He has the heart of a lion, bowled seven overs straight through, and changed the mood in Chelmsford.
Essex have an unhealthy relationship with limited-overs knockout matches, and a 100-run partnership between Taylor and Patel suggested more heartache.
Taylor’s effort followed his 154 in the Outlaws’ stunning quarter-final against Somerset, but a needless run out saw him back to the pavilion with his partner unmoved as Porter threw in to Simon Harmer. The lion roared back.
Mullaney joined in the fun with four boundaries from a Harmer over, before reaching his own half-ton from 39 balls as the target ticked below 100. Patel – who made 257 in the Championship recently – got to three figures, while his partner joined him with a first in the format, with a six over long-on off Bopara.
The partnership kept going, ticking over 150, for a Notts record for the fifth wicket, before eventually being halted as Mullaney tried to uppercut Neil Wagner.
But, as the game ticked into the last over, Patel (122*) held his nerve, thanks to a glove down the leg-side, to book Nottinghamshire’s place at Lord’s on July 1, where either Worcestershire or Surrey await.
Earlier in the piece, there was a man who scored 133 runs from 128 balls who looked very much like Alastair Cook at Chelmsford. But surely it couldn’t have been him. Cook doesn’t do things like accumulate five successive 50+ scores, or hit a half-century in 35 balls, or lead his team to a high score. That’s what we’ve been told at least.
This Essex imposter, or Cookalike if you will, did all of the above. And subsequently the Eagles were in the driving seat.
From just the game’s ninth ball, Cookalike looked all too familiar with a textbook late cut, a shot defining a career against the non-too-shabby England international Jake Ball.
Pairing with Varun Chopra, the 32-year-old dominated early on, putting on 38 of the game’s first 50 as Harry Gurney became a favourite to target. Cookalike’s own half-century was to come, with nine fours in the effort, soon after, but when Chopra ticked Mullaney behind, Notts had the much-needed breakthrough on 87-1.
The sign of a Cookalike in good form is the execution of the straight drive, so the visitors must have feared the worst when two overpitched went pinging to the rope. The second of those brought up the century, off Stuart Broad, with 13 fours leaving the Chelmsford crowd purring, though Tom Westley and Bopara had by then departed.
That only paved the way for ten Doeschate. A second-ball six from a free hit allowed him to settle, and but when four successive boundaries came from Mullaney’s military medium, the Dutch international was well on his way.
Cookalike eventually fell to a top-edge off Patel, not before accumulating 133 and a 12th List A century to reaffirm his place at the top of the RLODC run standings.
But the captain was only just getting started, accelerating to 50 in 40 balls, showing no signs of stopping as three towering sixes came from Harry Gurney in the 49th over alone.
James Foster joined in the fun for the Eagles to finish on 370-5, with 75 runs from just 32 balls the late damage. Essex’s highest score of the competition this season was secured. But it proved not enough.