Twenty20 finals day

Paul Nixon celebrates with his Leicestershire teammates.

Never in the history of domestic Twenty20 cricket had a match gone to a one-over eliminator and yet, on Finals Day 2011, it happened twice. Given the nature of T20 cricket and the way it’s designed to generate closely fought matches, I was surprised to learn that a tie had never occurred in the nine-year history of the competition in England. Duckworth Lewis played its part, of course – altering the totals of both the chasing semi final innings – as the heavy showers kept returning with annoying regularity. But it didn’t detract from what was an enthralling day of cricket that began at 11am and didn’t finish until 9.45pm.

As a lover of cricket I don’t get to as many matches as I should. Living in the north doesn’t help (the ICC seem obsessed with hosting international test matches almost exclusively in the south, overlooking Old Trafford and Headingley as venues) but despite that I’ve managed to catch a few ODIs and a couple of international Twenty20 matches during the past few years. For as much as I love the sport, I don’t have a great knowledge of the county circuit so, when my girlfriend suggested we buy tickets for the Twenty20 finals day at Edgbaston, I was more than keen to attend the day and sample the atmosphere.

Lancashire, chasing a revised target of 80 to win from 11 overs, looked to have lost it when they needed seven off the last ball, but they hit a maximum to confuse just about everyone in the ground. There was still some confusion as to what the eliminator was all about (and what would happen if the scores were still tied at the end of it) but luckily for the umpires that didn’t happen as Leicestershire successfully chased down 13 in their allotted over. If the scores had been level at the end of the extra over, the team that hit the most boundaries over the course of the actual match would have been declared the winners. No one said what would have happened if that was tied also!

A second eliminator wasn’t really on the cards when Somerset began their last over needing just five runs to see off a competitive Hampshire total. However, an incredible run-out off the last ball, with Somerset still needing one run to win, meant the scores were tied once again and another over was necessary to separate the two teams. This eliminator, by contrast, didn’t have as much drama as Hampshire struggled to find the boundary and Somerset squeezed out a place in the final. A few of us were asking how these extra batting and bowling figures were going to be incorporated into players’ statistics. Nobody knew.

Edgbaston action under the floodlights.

The final had its own drama – this time without any rain to interrupt play or alter any targets. Somerset bowled and fielded exceptionally well and probably felt they had done a good job in restricting Leicestershire to 145-6. In reply, Somerset were trundling along nicely and seemed well set at the half way point, but then the wheels came off when their players – with reputations for being big hitters – suddenly seemed to find the boundaries half a dozen yards beyond their capabilities as four wickets went to the same fielder on the rope off the same bowler. And Paul Nixon, in his last cricket match on English soil, took a fantastic flying one-handed catch to dismiss Kieron Pollard at a crucial time to help the match swing in the Foxes’ favour.

No less than five minutes after we took our seats in the ground the couple next to us spilt a pint of lager all over the stuff we’d put underneath the seats. Most of it went on our raincoats, which we then had to use when the rain arrived. Then our umbrella developed a hole in it. Turns out the bloke whose wife spilt the lager knew former Grimsby Town midfielder Stacy Coldicott. “Stacy’s a lovely fella,” he said, in his broad Brummie accent, “but the guy’s an absolute psychopath on the football pitch.” We also discussed how he stole his dog back from his estranged wife while she was in the Big Brother house. Ah, memories…

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