What a finish to this Vitality Blast Final.
Lancashire, eight wickets down, needed five to win off the last ball. Nathan Ellis scattered the stumps of Richard Gleeson and the fireworks went off to celebrate a Hampshire victory. But Ellis had bowled a no-ball.
Once the smoke had cleared, he tried again. Gleeson missed, ran a single but Lancashire were a run short of their target and Hampshire were the 2022 Vitality Blast champions!
After higher scoring earlier in the day, Lancashire and Hampshire fought out a Vitality Blast Final in which there was a much better balance between bat and ball. For much of the match, Lancashire looked to be odds on favourites, restricting Hampshire to 152-8 and being well poised at 85-3 at the halfway stage of their innings. But from there, the Lancashire innings declined in the face of some excellent Hampshire bowling.
Nathan Ellis and James Fuller conceded just five runs in the 17th and 18th over and then Fuller dismissed Danny Lamb to leave Lancashire struggling on 124-6, needing another 29 off 16 balls.
The crucial 19th over saw Wells hit a six and a four off Wood before he was run out by a direct hit, to leave the target 11 of six balls.
Then came that Nathan Ellis last over in which he conceded just four runs off the first three balls. Luke Wood was run out trying for a single to the wicket keeper. Two off the fifth ball which took us to that five and the dramatic finale.
Chasing their target, Lancashire had lost Phil Salt to Chris Wood in the first over, though not before he had crashed a four and a six. What they needed was an old hand to steer them towards victory. Cue Steven Croft, playing in his seventh Finals day. He took four boundaries off a Brad Wheal over and, with good support from Keaton Jennings, took Lancashire to 60-1 at the end of the Powerplay.
Just when it was looking like plain sailing for Lancashire, Croft, on 36, swung at a ball down the leg side from Mason Crane, got a faint edge and MacDermott held onto the chance. Next ball, McDermott was convinced he had caught Dane Vilas but the review showed no bat contact.
Liam Dawson tempted Keaton Jennings to loft a catch to long off and suddenly that winning target looked a little more distant at 77-3 in the ninth over.
The varying fortunes of T20 cricket were demonstrated when James Fuller beat Vilas four times in one over but was edged for four and upper cut for six – ten off the over. But the Lancashire captain’s joy was short-lived as he drove the persevering Liam Dawson to extra cover to be caught by James Vince for 23.
With Wells on ten, he needed help from a review that overturned an lbw decision, Mason Crane being the unlucky bowler. Tim David was less fortunate when he reviewed an lbw decision. The verdict went in favour of bowler James Fuller who conceded just two runs in this 16th over.
At the start, Hampshire won the toss and chose to bat but Lancashire may well have been happy with that, having already chased down a 200-plus total.
Richard Gleeson, who had come in for some harsh treatment in the semi-final, bowled Hampshire’s star batter James Vince with a full length ball, 11-1 in the second over. He seemed to have added a yard of pace between morning and evening. Luke Wood, too, was running in with vigour and induced a mis-timed pull from Tom Prest who was caught by Tom Hartley running in from the square leg boundary.b
Ben McDermott upped the rate with sixes wide of long on off both Wood and Danny Lamb. But 48-2 at the end of the Powerplay was 20 short of what they had managed in the semi-final against Somerset.
Matt Parkinson struck in his first over, Steven Croft running in to take a good catch off a top-edged sweep. At 58-3, Hampshire were faltering and Liam Dawson soon became Parkinson’s second victim, skying tamely to deep mid-off.
Ben McDermott was playing a lone hand and reached a fine 50 off just 32 balls, with four fours and three sixes. Luke Wells was unable to repeat his semi-final bowling performance and went for 21 runs in what proved to be his only over. But his fellow leg-spinner Parkinson had the perfect riposte, bowling McDermott for 62 with a sharply spinning delivery. Five overs of spin from Hartley and Parkinson, with that Wells over in the middle, went for just 32 runs and produced three wickets.
After six overs of Lancashire spin, Danny Lamb came back and saw James Fuller miscue to deep extra cover. Hampshire were now 105-6 after 13 overs. That became 11-7 when the returning Parkinson had Nathan Ellis caught at wide long on. Parkinson flighted and spun the ball tantalisingly and his figures of 4-26 were well deserved.
As the sun sank, so did the Hampshire innings. Ross Whiteley reached 22 but then holed out at cover to Luke Wood.
At that point, 152-8 seemed too few to trouble Lancashire. Little did we know what drama would unfold at the end of the day.
Well done to Hampshire who won seven matches in a row on their way to becoming 2022 Vitality Blast Champions.
Vitality Blast Finals Day is supporting the Professional Cricketers’ Trust. The players’ charity provides vital support to past and present cricketers in England and Wales and their immediate families when in desperate need. The charity’s work is all encompassing, whether it be for unforeseen physical or mental needs. You can support – justgiving.com/campaign/Blast22