Notts Outlaws first to book T20 Blast Finals Day place
Notts Outlaws 162-7 (Smith 50, ten Doeschate 3-19) beat
Essex Eagles 123 (Ryder 47, Patel 4-20) by 39 runs
NatWest T20 Blast quarter-final, Trent Bridge
Notts Outlaws produced an outstanding performance in the field to defend a score of 162 for seven and beat Essex Eagles by 39 runs to book a NatWest T20 Blast Finals Day place at Edgbaston.
Essex won the toss and chose to bowl first, and despite Greg Smith's 31-ball half-century, would have been happy to have kept Notts to a score that looked a little short at the break.
They did so thanks to Ryan ten Doeschate and Graham Napier sharing five wickets but Notts then outdid them in the field, led by Samit Patel (4-20) and Steven Mullaney (2-16).
Jesse Ryder hit a quickfire 47 before Essex were bowled out for 123 in 18.4 overs, failing to break a quarter-final hoodoo that has now seen them reach - and fall at - this stage for three years in a row.
Dan Lawrence opened the bowling for Essex and the first boundary of the game came from the fourth ball, Michael Lumb (11 off eight balls) edging the off-spinner to the fence at third man before David Masters conceded just four singles from his first over as the away side kept it tight early on.
In the third over, Lumb welcomed Paul Walter into the attack by smearing him down the ground for four but attempting another big shot one ball later he succeeded only in edging the left-arm quick to Ryder, who took a sharp catch at slip.
New batsman Smith got off the mark by punching Walter down the ground for four and then added another boundary two balls later before Wessels overcame a slow start to hit Masters for two fours in the fourth over as the Outlaws were not slowed at all by the loss of Lumb.
The first maximum of the evening had a touch of fortune about it when Smith's attempted sweep flew over fine leg via a top edge and that was the signal for Ravi Bopara to call for Napier - in his final season before retirement - to come into the attack, and even if just briefly, Notts were pegged back, ending the fifth over on 42 for one.
Essex tried to rotate their bowlers to keep Notts in check and got some reward when another top edge - this time from Wessels (36 in 29 balls) - was caught by Masters as ten Doeschate struck with his first delivery. Captain Dan Christian joined Smith in the middle and at the halfway stage the home side were 75 for two.
Smith completed a 31-ball half-century with a boundary off Bopara, his seventh in T20 cricket, although he was bowled two balls later for 50 in 33 deliveries to leave his side 110 for three.
Christian fell for 21 and Napier returned to york Steven Mullaney for five before Notts' 150 came up with nine balls of the innings remaining. One ball later, Nick Browne caught Patel (23) in the deep off ten Doeschate, who finished with figures of three for 19, just reward for an excellent spell - and it might have been better had James Foster not uncharacteristically dropped Patel earlier in his innings.
Although finished with his bowling, he wasn't to be kept out of the action for long as he then took a brilliant low diving catch in the deep to see off Luke Wood for a duck as Napier struck in the final over.
Chris Read (12 not out) managed a couple of late boundaries to help the Outlaws close on 162 for seven, Napier claiming two for 20.
Browne and Ryder opened up for Essex and while Browne clipped one off his pads to get off the mark, Ryder edged Wood through the slip cordon for a fortuitous boundary as neither Mullaney nor Wessels made much of an attempt to take the catch. Another boundary scooped over long-on followed as Essex looked to quickly get to grips with facing a pair of left-arm quicks in Wood and Harry Gurney with the new ball.
A crunching cover drive for four by Ryder was the highlight of the opening exchanges while Gurney was perhaps lucky that a no ball for height only cost him one extra run before Wood was pulled to the mid-wicket fence by Ryder in the third over and then driven through cover by the New Zealander.
Browne joined in by guiding Wood to backward point for four and Ryder scored two more boundaries off Jake Bell - one edged, one punched - as Essex moved to 44 without loss in four overs.
Essex looked comfortable against quick bowling so Christian gambled by turning to leg-spinner Imran Tahir, only to see him boomed through the off-side by Ryder, although Tahir tightened things up, missing a tough caught and bowled chance as Essex reached 50 without loss in five overs.
Ryder helped Essex finish the powerplay on 62 without loss - more runs than Notts have conceded in a powerplay all season - with another two boundaries and some sharp running off Gurney.
Tahir conceded just three runs from his second over and Mullaney did likewise in his first, which had the added bonus of Ryder being run out for 47 in 30 balls. Browne drove the ball back down the ground and as the bowler dived to intercept, the ball flicked off his arm onto the stumps with the batsman well out of his ground.
It was now the Outlaws' turn to rely on their medium and slow bowlers as Patel replaced Tahir and every dot ball was cheered by the Trent Bridge crowd; with the squeeze well and truly on, Essex found themselves under some pressure at 72 for one in nine overs.
And sure enough, the pressure told as Browne tried to take on Patel in the 11th over and was caught on the boundary by Ball for 22 in 29 balls.
Essex sent out Ashar Zaidi, who promptly blasted Patel over long-on for six within seconds of his arrival but trying a repeat next ball was caught by Wood and the left-armer struck again to bowl Tom Westley for eight at the start of the 13th over to bring Notts right back into the game with Essex at 87 for four.
Ten Doeschate (7) survived the hat-trick ball but despite all of their experience, neither he nor Bopara could break the shackles and Patel claimed four wickets in a T20 innings for the first time when ten Doeschate attempted a reverse sweep but was trapped in front to leave Essex 103 for five, needing 60 to win in 25 balls.
Bopara (10) was next to go as he failed to clear Wessels in the deep trying to take on Tahir, meaning Lawrence, who injured a hamstring while fielding, had to come to the crease with ten Doeschate as his runner - despite a reverse sweep for four, his side needed 50 to win from the final three overs.
Mullaney (2-16), bowling his clever variety of cutters and slower balls, saw off the hobbling Lawrence, caught behind by Read as he went for another reverse sweep, had Napier dropped first ball by Read and then caught at short third man by Tahir as the Outlaws homed in on victory.
Walter thumped him for six in a late act of defiance but was completely deceived by a Gurney slower ball soon after and was well caught by Read behind the stumps and victory was wrapped up when Foster was caught by Wessels for four.
The remaining three sides who will join the Outlaws at Edgbaston on 20th August will be decided throughout the remainder of the week as Northants Steelbacks host Middlesex tomorrow (9th August), Durham Jets head to Gloucestershire on Wednesday (10th August) and Glamorgan welcome Yorkshire Vikings on Thursday (11th August).
© Cricket World 2016