After a closely contested game, Worcestershire Rapids defeated Gloucestershire by five wickets with eight balls to spare. They will go to Edgbaston for Finals Day for the first time ever.
In a low-scoring game, when Worcestershire still needed 41 off the last five overs, the match was very much in the balance. It was unfortunate for Gloucestershire’s leading wicket-taker in the competition, left arm seamer David Payne, that he bowled the over that decided the match. Two no-balls, two wides, two well-struck sixes by Ross Whiteley, 22 runs and it hardly mattered that Whiteley holed out on the square leg boundary. 19 off four the next overs was a stroll by the river for the Rapids.
What looked to be a good, true surface turned out to be one where pace off the pitch was the order of the day. It was nothing like the pitch at Canterbury the other night, described poetically by Sam Billings as a snot heap; but it was not a batsman’s paradise either.
The Rapids undoubtedly adapted better to the local conditions – born and bred in the briar patch, as Brer Rabbit would have said.
Having won the toss, Worcestershire asked Gloucestershire to bat in front of a near-capacity crowd.
They saw the visitors make a flying start, thanks largely to Miles Hammond. The young left-hander showed the same penchant for the cover drive as his more illustrious Gloucestershire namesake from the past; but in his case, it was the lofted version that the great Wally would no doubt have disdained. He also had a good line in reverse hits; but they brought his downfall when he missed and fell lbw to expert dibbly-dobbly man Daryl Mitchell.
By then, eight overs had gone by, the Rapids were on their sixth bowler and the openers had put on 65.
Worcestershire had now worked out that pace off rather than pace on was the way to go. The combination of the wily Mitchell and leg-spinner Brett D’Oliveira slowed Gloucestershire right down.
Michael Klinger, so often the batting mainstay for Gloucestershire, precisely picked out Ed Barnard on the long on boundary to give his wicket away for 24. Worse was to follow for the visitors, as Benny Howell swung with some violence at D’Oliveira but only succeeded in skying a return catch.
Ryan Higgins repeated Klinger’s trick by picking out Barnard at long on. Then Jack Taylor was embarrassingly bowled by a long hop from D’Oliveira, and Gloucestershire had sunk to 97-5.
When in the 16thover Ian Cockbain swung Moeen for four, and then hit D’Oliveira for a straight six, they were the first boundaries since the seventh over. Cockbain had reached 35 off 29 balls in the 18thover, when he was run out by a direct hit from Barnard at mid-wicket. In the same over, A.J.Tye swung Wayne Parnell high but straight to Moeen Ali.
In the final over, Gareth Roderick hit Parnell to Barnard at deep mid-wicket, and Gloucestershire had subsided from 65-1 to 136-8.
D’Oliveira, returning from a finger injury, took 4-26 off his four overs. Mitchell played an important role, too, with just 15 runs and one wicket off his allotted quota.
If it’s going to rain at a cricket match, between the innings is maybe the best time. Although a heavy shower held up the start of the Worcestershire innings for nearly an hour, no overs were lost.
Early on, the Rapids lost the important early wicket of captain Moeen Ali when he played across a full-length ball from Payne and was adjudged lbw. Joe Clarke got off to a lively start but then pulled Tye straight to Hammond at deep square leg.
When D’Oliveira chipped Howell to short mid-wicket, the Rapids were 43-3 and struggling. Between the sixth and 11thovers, there were no boundaries. And when Callum Ferguson and Ben Cox ended the drought with a couple of boundaries off Howell, it was followed by Cox lobbing an easy catch to Tye at short mid-wicket – 66-4.
At this point, Ferguson and Whiteley combined in a stand of 55 in just 5.1 overs, culminating in that Payne over which proved so decisive.
Ferguson finished with 64 from 47 balls, with six fours, Howell with 2-22 and Tye with 1-21 bowled 21 dot balls bewteen them. The rest of the Gloucestershire bowlers managed just 20.
And so, at the sixth attempt, the Worcestershire Rapids got beyond a quarterfinal. They will make their Finals Day debut at Edgbaston on 15 September.