Nottinghamshire vs Northamptonshire

Tuesday 10th August 2021 – The Royal London Cup at Gorse Lane, Grantham

75 days after my visit to watch Surrey against Gloucestershire at The Oval I arrived in Grantham to watch the 18th and final first class county play at home this season. Some may point out that the birthplace of Margaret Thatcher and educational home of Isaac Newton is actually in Lincolnshire, but the boundary rules for county cricket are fluid to say the least as Durham and Kent will attest in their games in the last few weeks.

My 30th game of the season was another Royal London Cup clash, with both sides sitting on six points and still in with a chance of qualifying for the knock-out phase. For limited overs specialists Notts, the added incentive was the final taking place at Trent Bridge next week where they still held out hopes of adding the Royal London Cup to their 2020 T20 Blast honours.

Unlike out grounds at Gosforth, Guildford, Beckenham and Cheltenham I’d visited on my travels, Grantham was as rural as you could get. Whilst the ground sits almost alongside the A1 it’s a country road walk to civilisation, with nothing around the ground apart from England’s green and pleasant land. Despite this was the one and only game the ground would be hosting, Notts had brought in plenty of food and drink outlets for the crowd of a couple of thousand who were able to bask in a rare glimpse of British summer.

Northants won the toss and decided to bat. I’d arrived slightly late as it was A-level results day in the Fuller household, which with the main car park full I was directed to park on the boundary edge. A great view if I wanted to stay in the car but just a decent shot over the mid-wicket boundary from a smashed windscreen. A small risk in return for a prime parking spot though.

The crowd were well settled, picnics in progress when the first wicket fell with 20 on the board, Vasconcelos caught off the bowling of Peter Trejo for 13. A fifty partnership for the third wicket with the run rate around the five mark was the watermark for Northants before Liam Patterson-White removed the next five batsmen for just 19 runs, his best every first class bowling figures, reducing the visitors to 174-8 after 40 overs. A brief tail end flourish saw Northants finish their innings on 210 with last man White out on the penultimate ball of the innings.

So Notts needed 4.2 an over, easily within their gift in normal circumstances. But in these Hundred-pillaged times, anything can happen. Opener Ben Slater was obviously on a promise, scoring at a run a ball from the first over despite the early loss of Budinger for a single run. However, he soon slowed down as the partnership with Compton bedded down and the run rate dropped to less than four an over in their 77 run partnership before he fell for 53 off 80 balls. Two wickets soon became three when Trego was caught behind for a duck. All of a sudden Wisden’s win predictor moved in Northants favour.

Compton’s 50 arrived off 70 balls but it was one of the only highlights in a teatime session of defensive batting. The required run rate slowly started to creep up towards the 5 an over mark, despite Notts having wickets in hand. It was as if they wanted to make sure we say 100 overs rather than a strong run chase. Win’s a win I suppose.

Compton made 71 before he was bowled by Zaib, with 56 still needed off 12 overs. And then it almost ground to a halt. Two wickets in seven balls for zero runs tilted the game in the favour of Northants, with Notts in danger of running out of wickets and balls. A brief flurry from Hutton though gave them a chance and when he fell there was still thirteen needed from eight balls and just two wickets remaining.

A single then a four still left eight off the final over and when Sanderson’s first ball was played and missed Northants could smell victory. A single from each of the next two meant six was needed from two balls. Sixes had been very thin on the ground in the game – in fact there had just been one from Hutton in his cameo innings but cometh the hour, cometh the big swinging bat of Dane Peterson and he struck the winning runs with two balls to spare.

It was a dramatic end to what had been a relatively sleepy, yet enjoyable day in the sunshine in Lincolnshire. The win saw Notts climb to third place, but as they have played all eight group games it is now out of their hands as to whether they make the top three and qualify for the knock-out stages at the weekend.

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