Since 2003, T20 Finals Day has become established as county cricket’s biggest day out. The annual marathon of T20, featuring two semi finals, a final and a mascot race is one of the hottest tickets in the cricketing calendar.
For the last 6 years, Edgbaston has become the established home of Finals Day but Trent Bridge, the Ageas Bowl, the Oval and Sophia Gardens have all had their chance at hosting. It is a day that rarely lacks for drama both on and off the field.
Here, Deep Extra Cover picks out eight memorable Finals Day moments.
1. Flintoff’s return
2014 saw one of the great T20 finals. The newly rebranded Birmingham Bears were playing in a Finals Day at home for the first time and stunned a star-studded Surrey side featuring Kevin Pietersen in the semi final. Their opponents in the final would be Lancashire, who blitzed their way to Finals Day taking 22 points in the group phase.
It was a summer that saw Andrew Flintoff come out of retirement to play for Lancashire and, having missed out on selection for the semi final, an injury to Kabir Ali saw Flintoff play in the final. He removed former England team-mate Ian Bell with his first ball to send Edgbaston wild but the Bears still made 181-5 in their 20 overs. Batting down the order, Flintoff strode to the middle with Lancashire needing 30 off 18 balls. A fairytale was on with Flintoff hitting back to back sixes to leave Lancashire needing 14 off the last over. A brilliant final over from Chris Woakes denied Flintoff and Lancashire with the Bears lifting their first title.
2. Middlesex edge out Kent
2008 was the year T20 got serious. The IPL kicked off following India’s win in the inaugural World T20 and a place in the Stanford Super Series was up for grabs for the winner of that year’s Twenty20 Cup. Southampton was the venue for a thriller of a final between Middlesex and Kent. Having thrashed Durham in their semi-final, Middlesex made an above par 187-6 batting first with Owais Shah making 75 from 35 balls. A strong opening partnership between Rob Key and Joe Denly gave Kent a great chance but, despite finishing with 0-58 in his four overs, Tyron Henderson’s final over was a cracker and Middlesex sneaked over the line by just three runs.
3. Hampshire win after tied final
Southampton would once again provide an incredible finish to Finals Day when home side Hampshire took on Somerset in the final in 2010. Both semi-finals had been interrupted by the weather meaning Somerset were faced with a very quick turnaround before playing in the final. Batting first they made 173-6 in their 20 overs with the innings best remembered for Dominic Cork hitting Kieron Pollard with a bouncer that forced the West Indian to retire hurt. More injury drama followed with Hampshire needing three to win from two balls as Dan Christian pulled a muscle running a single meaning a runner was required for the final ball. Hampshire only took one from the last ball leaving the match tied but they were awarded the match by virtue of losing fewer wickets.
4. Super overs all round
If you thought the conclusion to this Summer’s World Cup was dramatic, in 2011 both semi finals were decided by a Super Over. First up was Leicestershire v Lancashire with the Foxes’ hero being Will Jefferson who launched an enormous six into the Hollies Stand to see them over the line. For the second season running, Hampshire and Somerset would be involved in a tie meaning at odds of over 3,000-1, a second Super Over was required with Somerset gaining revenge for defeat in the final the year before. However, they would have to settle for runners-up again as Leicestershire gave Paul Nixon a fitting finale to his career by lifting the trophy for the third time.
5. No ball controversy
Finals Day has had its controversial moments. None more so than in 2006 when Notts played Leicestershire at Trent Bridge. The Foxes were champions two years previously and batted first in the final with Darren Maddy striking 86 from 69 balls to lead them to a total of 177-2. In the run chase, a young fast bowler named Stuart Broad impressed taking the key wicket of David Hussey. Notts needed 17 off the final over with heavy rain falling. Jim Allenby bowled it for the Foxes and looked to have sealed the game until Will Smith hit a full toss for 6 from the final ball. A no-ball was controversially not called by umpire Peter Hartley and, much to the anger of the majority of the Trent Bridge crowd, Leicestershire won by four runs.
6. Willey sees Northants to famous win
2013 saw one of the biggest upsets in Finals Day history. The year before, Northants had won only one match in the group phase but they fought their way to Edgbaston after a quarter-final win against Durham. They were not given much of a chance on the day and looked down and out in the semi final against Essex chasing 169. They required 67 from 36 balls but the “Northants Botham” Steven Crook stepped up with a superb 46 from 22 balls to see the Steelbacks into the final against Surrey. In a reduced 18 overs a side contest, Northants made 194-2 with David Willey making 60 in just 27 balls. Surrey never got close to chasing it down and folded to 92 all out, with Willey completing his perfect day with a hat trick and figures of four for nine.
7. Wood blows away Yorkshire but Durham fall short
While T20 cricket is often all about the batsman. Mark Wood’s spell in the 2016 semi-final for Durham against Yorkshire is one that will not been forgotten by the Edgbaston crowd who saw it. 56 from Ben Stokes had got Durham up to 156-6 in their 20 overs but, against a powerful Yorkshire batting line-up, this wasn’t expected to be enough. Wood’s spell of four overs, 4-25 including the wickets of Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root and Gary Ballance, swung the match in Durham’s favour and the Jets won by seven runs. Wood was again troubling batsman in the final, helping reduce Northants to nine for three but the Steelbacks were able to recover and defeated Durham by four wickets with an over unused.
8. Notts clinch white-ball double
Finals Day 2017 is perhaps best remembered for events off the field. Gloucestershire mascot Alfred the Gorilla successfully defended his Mascot derby crown while a rendition of Sweet Caroline from Sky Sports pair David Lloyd and Andrew Flintoff thrilled the crowd. On the field, Birmingham Bears survived a late flourish from the Glamorgan tail to take the first semi final by 11 runs while Notts comfortably beat Hampshire to set up an all Midlands final. The Outlaws, chasing a white ball trophy double, made 190-4 in their 20 overs and, despite 72 from Sam Hain, Notts would win their first T20 title by 22 runs.