Finals Day really is a must for any cricket team, player or fan in this country. Arguably it has overtaken the Lord’s final to become County Cricket’s biggest day of the season.
Before this year 16 of the 18 counties had participated in the event since it began back in 2003, Derbyshire and Worcestershire the two sides to miss out.
However, the latter will finally get their opportunity to take part on September 15thas a team with the perfect blend of youth and experience have stormed their way through the competition in 2018.
In the second of a series looking at how all four teams got to Finals Day, we pick out five crucial matches that helped Worcestershire reach Edgbaston.
Birmingham Beaten – Worcestershire Rapids 192-7 beat Birmingham Bears 188-9 by 4 runs
Worcestershire flew out of the traps in this year’s tournament winning their first four games, continuing the excellent form that saw them reach the semi-finals of the One Day Cup. All four matches saw the Rapids play some wonderful cricket but surely the highlight will have been the victory over the Birmingham Bears, their local rivals.
Put into bat, the top three of Martin Guptill, Joe Clarke and Callum Ferguson all made meaningful contributions, as did Ross Whiteley whose 34 from 17 balls down the order helped his team to 192-7. That looked to be more than enough as Birmingham struggled to 152-9, despite a brutal 70 from Sam Hain. A last wicket partnership between Tim Ambrose and Oliver Hannon-Dalby, however, almost saw the Bears to an improbable win, losing out by just four runs.
Worcestershire deservedly ran out winners though, with youngster Pat Brown who has emerged as one of the finds of the tournament, finishing on 3-28.
Guptill Goes Crazy – Worcestershire Rapids 189-1 beat Northamptonshire Steelbacks 187-9 by 9 wickets
Two error strewn defeats had come after Worcestershire’s early success and, as lowly Northants posted what seemed to be a competitive 187-9 in their next match, a campaign that had started with so much promise looked to be falling off a cliff.
Martin Guptill had other ideas, though, as he struck one of the best T20 innings you are likely to see. Only six runs came from the first eight balls he faced, but his intentions quickly changed as he hit a Richard Gleeson over for five boundaries. The New Zealand international never looked back thereafter racing to a century from just 35 deliveries, the joint fourth fastest in T20 history. He did eventually perish for 102, but by that time the damage had been done. Joe Clarke, who registered a score of 61, and Travis Head saw Worcestershire home in just the 14thover.
Frightening Ferguson – Worcestershire Rapids 206-2 beat Nottinghamshire Outlaws 134 all out by 72 runs
The most impressive win in Worcestershire’s North Group campaign no doubt came at Trent Bridge against Nottinghamshire, a triumph in which they comprehensively outplayed the defending champions in all facets of the game.
Callum Ferguson, who has recently re-signed for the club for 2019, hit a wonderful century, the Australian proving a canny piece of business by the Rapids. He added 135 for the second wicket with Moeen Ali, who himself scored 65. A score of over 200 looked well over par, and it proved to be just that as the Outlaws were bowled out 72 runs short, Wayne Parnell taking 3-20.
It was a performance that sent out a huge statement of intent, and one that would have made many other counties quiver with fear.
The Bowlers Show – Worcestershire Rapids 137-8 beat Derbyshire Falcons 121-7 by 16 runs
T20 is not always about the batsmen and so it was that Worcestershire’s bowlers put them on the brink of the quarterfinals by winning this low scoring affair – a performance that will surely stand them in good stead should things go slightly wrong with the bat on Finals Day.
Joe Clarke’s 76 against Derbyshire was the only significant innings in a batting effort that saw every batsmen other than Wayne Parnell fail to get out of single figures. The bowlers more than made up for the failure of the batters, and a combined effort restricted Derbyshire with 51 dot balls. Billy Godleman tried to anchor the innings, but his 38 only came at a run a ball, a knock far less effective than the one Clarke had played earlier in the day.
By this stage it was clear this Worcestershire side was an outfit that capable of performing in a variety of different situations.
First Finals Day– Worcestershire Rapids 137-5 beat Gloucestershire 136-8 by 5 wickets
Worcestershire would go on to top the North Group and, by now, only Gloucestershire stood in the way of their first ever visit to Finals Day – a team that had finished fourth in the South Group and were well known for their abilities in white ball cricket.
However, all looked to be rosy for the hosts at New Road as Gloucestershire could only muster 136-8 from their 20 overs, despite initially being 65-0. Brett D’Oliveira’s four wickets did most of the damage. Those Worcestershire fans in attendance were left on tenterhooks throughout the run chase, though, as their team struggled to 66-4. Callum Ferguson was, crucially, still at the crease and that would be the difference between the sides. The Australian’s 64, along with some late blows from Ross Whiteley, saw the Rapids home.
The home supporters celebrated a famous victory, as did cricket fans across the country – Worcestershire a team many seem to want to do well and finally heading to Finals Day.