Notts Outlaws vs Hampshire Hawks

Wednesday 25th August 2021 – The Vitality T20 Blast at Trent Bridge, Nottingham

After the last over drama at Durham the night before, the game on paper at Trent Bridge between last season’s T20 champions Notts Outlaws and last-gasp qualifiers seemed straight forward. However, it provided to be a game of high drama with the bowlers rather than the batsmen proving to be decisive.

Trent Bridge is to me the perfect urban cricket ground. Easy to get to via road and rail, close enough to the city centre, yet far enough away not for it to cause problems and decent views from all angles. I’d chosen the Hound Stand for this game, a small two tier affair, wedged in the corner of the ground next to the Larwood & Voce. It offered fantastic views, although for some strange reason access to Row A where I was sitting involved an entrance over the back of the seats, relying on my close neighbours to hold my beer. It’s not a seat choice if you’ve been on the piss all day that’s for sure.

The home side won the toss and elected to field, perhaps taking a cue from Sussex’s win from a chasing position the previous night. Hampshire haven’t lacked fire power from their top order this season with James Vince and D’arcy Short. If the Outlaws wanted to win then getting them out quickly was the key.

Four overs in and both were back in the pavilion with just 19 runs on the board, both to poor timed shots and caught with ease. T20 is unforgiving when you lose quick wickets high up the order as the pressure quickly builds. 19-2 became 40-5 with Calvin Harrison picking up two wickets in two balls. Hampshire were on the ropes. Could Notts deliver a knockout punch?

The resistance came from Prest and Fuller who moved the score along, sharing a 49 run partnership in 7 overs but both then departed in quick succession. At one point it looked as if the Hawks would be lucky to reach 100 but some poor fielding including an inexplicable drop from Alex Hales in the deep saw them reach three figures with four overs to go, losing top scorer Prest for 44 to mark the occasion.

The lower order valiantly tried to hit out but could only add a further 25 runs in those last 22 balls, losing 9 wickets in total to finish on 125. A dearth of boundaries was a telling sign of their innings – just 6 fours and 3 sixes. The Outlaws bowling and tight field settings seemed to have won the game before they came out to bat.

The Outlaws were on 22-0 after 2 overs and on course to finish the game with 8-10 overs to spare. Even when Hales departed for a relatively low key 19 off 12 balls they had 42 on the board off just 4.3 overs. At the other end Joe Clarke, on his way to 42 was dropped by the Hawks keeper after skying one up in the air and was halfway to the pavilion before the howls of laughter from the crowd made him sheepishly return.

There’s always a compelling event when fortunes change and in the Notts innings it was the run out of Liam Duckett, thanks to a direct hit from long off. Keeper Moores departed two runs later and Notts were 68-3 off 9 overs. The run rate was still less than 6 but the confidence started to drain.

Joe Clarke was the Outlaws man in form, one of the top runs scorers in this year’s competition. When he departed for 42 it seemed he’d provided a platform for them to go onto win. But the runs dried up and the wickets started to fall. Between the next five batsmen at the crease only one boundary was scored as Notts went from 83-4 to 96-8 in 3 overs, Scott Currie the architect of the downfall with 2-16 off his four.

All of a sudden the Hawks were on top. The run rate created over seven and Notts needed someone to step up. That man was Matt Carter as he plundered. Almost.

Fletcher departed for 3 in the 18th over with 17 runs still required. Two dot balls at the start of the 19th almost handed the game to Hampshire, 17 off 10 balls. Then Carter hit 14 runs including two sixes off the next three balls. Three needed off seven. Crucially, off that final ball of the over he played and missed, looking for glory and the final over would see number 11 Dane Patterson on strike.

Actually, with nine wickets down if Notts would have scored two more to tie the game they would have progressed due to their run rate in the competition. But Patterson couldn’t get anything on the ball and even attempts to take a quick run through a bye were thwarted by the Hawks field. On the fourth ball of the over he got bat to ball but only straight to McManus and the Outlaws were all out with 2 balls and more importantly 2 runs left to find.

It was a shock and the 14,000 fans were left silenced as the realisation of defeat permeated around Trent Bridge. It had been a game that had swung between the two sides on numerous occasions and somehow the Hawks had pulled it off.

The first two T20 games had shown everything that was great about the format. Whilst Tuesday night at Durham had been a showcase of batting, this had been about the bowlers and the fielding. Contrasting matches but the underdogs had both had their days.

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