Leicestershire 267 for 7 (Swindells 117*, Evans 60) beat Hampshire 265 for 8 (Dawson 57, Prest 51) by two runs
On a day when fortunes swung wildly, Leicestershire held their nerve to seal their fourth List A title with a narrow two-run win over Hampshire in the Metro Bank One Day Cup final at Trent Bridge.
Wicketkeeper batter Harry Swindells’ maiden century alongside a handy 60 by Sam Evans helped the East Midlands’ side recover from 19-4 to post a match-winning 267-7.
With 40 needed off 30 with four wickets in hand, Hampshire were favourites to bag their sixth title especially with Liam Dawson at the crease on 41 but a flurry of late wickets meant they fell short in a last-over thriller.
Having won the toss and opted to bat first under clouds, Leicestershire struggled against Hampshire’s potent new-ball attack, being reduced to 19-4 inside the first seven overs.
Left-arm seamer Keith Barker (3-65) dealt with openers Rishi Patel and former Nottinghamshire-batter Sol Budinger. Patel nicked off just his second ball at the end of the first over and while Budinger, beaten six times in a row by Ian Holland before hoicking Barker through midwicket for the game’s first boundary, needlessly repeating the shot to sky a good length delivery to backward point.
Colin Ackermann, fresh off a century at Hove, chipped Holland to midwicket before Barker’s in-swinger snaked through the bat-pad gap of Wiaan Mulder, six balls later, for an LBW.
Amidst the early bedlam, only Lewis Hill, the captain, looked the most proactive, committed to his shots and assured while running between the wickets. Although promising, his resistance, worth 42 off 57 balls, was cut short, wafting at a short, wide delivery by Scott Currie in the 22nd over as the East Midlands’ side slid further down to 89-6.
Harry Swindells and Sam Evans, the only two changes in the side coming in for Peter Handscomb and Matt Salisbury, then put on a record 151-run partnership for the seventh wicket as the sun broke through and the travelling Leicestershire fans found their voice in the Fox Road Stand.
Evans, playing only his sixth List A match, struck just four boundaries in his 84-ball 60 but rotated the strike well to play second fiddle to Swindells.
Swindells, remarkably playing his first List A game in 13 months and only his ninth match for the senior team after eight modest T20 Blast appearances this season, stepped up to hit his maiden century in the format. His unbeaten knock of 117 off 96 deliveries consisted of eight fours and three sixes, two of the latter coming at the death.
The 24-year-old former England under-19 swung Barker over his head for his sixth boundary in the penultimate over of the innings to bring up the landmark and celebrated by punching the air twice, embracing skywards and holding his arms aloft in acknowledgement.
Having sped into the nineties earlier with a six, in the final over, he carved Currie over backward point for his third six followed by a boundary over long off to post 267-7, a stunning recovery from the depths of despair.
“[The plan was to] just take it deep. I have played with Sam since I was eight years old. There was no one else I’d rather be out there. We have spoken about this moment for 15 years. He played brilliantly and took a lot of pressure off me,” Swindells told the broadcasters after walking off to a rousing applause.
“It’s been a difficult year. I haven’t played as much as I would have liked. I just wanted to take off from where Pete [Peter Handscomb] left us, he had a brilliant year. I wanted to do him justice.”
In reply, Hampshire’s batters got off to a sedate start only to lose their leading run-scorers in the competition inside the Powerplay.
Skipper Nick Gubbins was caught short of his crease by Mulder despite a late dive and eight balls later, the South African overseas pegged back Fletcha Middleton’s off-stump with a nip-backer to reduce the 2018 champions to 38-2.
But Ben Brown (33) and Prest put on a 79-run stand on a pitch losing its pace under the evening sun and were separated when Brown pulled a short ball from Chris Wright to midwicket in the 24th over against the run of play.
His dismissal sparked a mini collapse as Wright accounted for Aneurin Donald (6) and Prest chipped a return catch to left-arm seamer Josh Hull as Hampshire fell to 136-5.
But Joe Weatherley and Dawson resurrected the chase with a steady 82-run partnership prioritising running between the wickets over boundary hitting.
Ackermann, the sole spinner for Leicestershire, returned to snare Weatherley, top edging a slog sweep in the deep before Dawson notched up a fifty.
Holland then struck two boundaries in his brief stay at the crease to inch his side closer but scooped Mulder to Josh Hull at fine leg, who fringed himself to take the catch inches from the turf.
In a repeat dismissal, with 5 needed off 3, Dawson scooped Hull to fine leg to send the raucous Fox Road Stand into raptures with his side ultimately falling short by 2 runs.
Leicestershire’s first List A title since 1985, to go along with being in contention for promotion to Division One with two more rounds of County Championship remaining is testament to the players’ and coaches’ efforts after enduring a difficult year.
The news of head coach Paul Nixon’s sudden exit followed the departure of Durham-bound Colin Ackermann and Callum Parkinson at the end of the season. Seamer Chris Wright will also leave for Sussex.
“There was more noise outside the dressing room than inside. We have a great bunch of guys, the culture that we have now is brilliant,” interim head coach James Taylor told BBC Radio East Midlands ahead of the final.
“We won all but one game and then to be in contention for promotion in the County Championship, which is the hardest format, with the squad that we have and to be competing on two fronts is credit to the players. The other head coach, Alfonso Thomas, has been outstanding as well.
“The players are in a good space, we just need to keep ticking the matches along and putting in team performances. The best thing about this team is that individuals have stepped up and we haven’t relied on just one guy throughout the season. Everybody has won a game for us which is really nice.”