There is a light and it never goes out...
Bad luck, they say, comes in threes. Presumably ‘they’ weren’t the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Superstition aside, Notts Outlaws missed out Twenty20 finals day for the third time in three years, all three times having lost a home quarter-final in front of a large and expectant Trent Bridge crowd. On Thursday, it was 12,106, eclipsing the ground record set at this stage two years ago against Somerset.
Where they controlled large parts of the two previous games against Somerset and Hampshire only to stumble down the home straight, here the defeat was more comprehensive, even though they were in the game for large periods.
Notts require Heimlich manoeuvre as they splutter to defeat
Still, after Essex had posted a challenging 187 – no higher score had been successfully chased in T20 at Trent Bridge this year – Notts looked dead and buried at 64 for 4 after just 7.4 overs of the reply, with four prize men back in the hutch.
David Hussey briefly gave them hope, but a procession of six wickets for just 13 runs in 10 balls, including Chris Read run out for a diamond duck (without facing a ball) closed out a game in which a lack of bowling depth and poor decision-making with the bat cost them dearly.
Happy at the toss...
Back before the night fell and the lights took effect, Notts must have been relatively happy to have won the toss. Usually, when the game is not sudden-death, they like to bat first and let scoreboard pressure tell. This time, they opted to bowl. There was a certain amount of logic to this given that batting is Notts stronger suit and that’s generally what you’d prefer to be doing in the second innings.
Perhaps, though, it was an admission of some self-doubt created by the two quarter-final defeats in succession; perhaps, too, it was prompted by them not really possessing a high-class, go-to death bowler.
Gur-knees and elbows
Whatever the reasons, on a two-paced wicket, the new ball was taken by Harry Gurney. The former Leicestershire man has a stiff and spindly action, in delivery stride resembling a stick insect coming off his roller skates, yet he’s consistently effective in white ball cricket. He unfurled a three-over spell that went for just 17, as Essex made 46 for 3 in the powerplay, losing dangerman Hamish Rutherford to one of the few balls that zipped off a sluggish surface.
Ravi Bopara sold Greg Smith down the river with a “Yes. No. Sorry”, which may have proven a blessing in disguise as it got Ryan ten Doeschate to the crease early enough to do maximum damage. After surviving a hugely convincing lbw shout from the impressive Ian Butler when on just 6, his innings of 82 from 44 balls would take Essex well beyond the 174 par score at Trent Bridge this season.
The turning point: Ryan ten Doeschate survives a huge lbw appeal off Ian Butler
However, first came a period of consolidation between two experienced, high-class players – 40 runs came from end of fourth over to end of tenth – before a major injection of impetus, as 44 runs were plundered from overs 11 to 13 from left-arm spinners Graeme White and Samit Patel (who finished with combined figures of 8-0-98-0).
Welbeck CC’s rangy seamer Jake Ball saw the back of Bopara, caught at long-on by Ian Butler in front of a boisterous and beery contingent up from Essex, but he was promptly spanked by ten Doeschate for consecutive sixes as the Eagles accelerated away, taking 53 from the final five overs. That the score remained manageable was entirely down to Butler’s excellent spell of 4-0-22-3.
Jake Ball lets fly
The Notts chase of 188 started in a blizzard of boundaries. England openers Alex Hales and Michael Lumb faced a dozen balls apiece, the former smearing 31, the latter 19, but both fell to wily medium-pace yet aggressive mentality of David Masters as Notts finished the fourth over, a double-wicket maiden, at 50 for 2.
Taylor survived a vociferous appeal (and some chirruping afterwards), then promptly chipped tamely to deep square leg for a duck as only two runs came in a spell of 18 balls. Patel was then bounced out by Aussie speedster Shaun Tait – who, incidentally, bears more than a passing resemblance to Eric Bana – to leave a choking Notts in need of the Heimlich manoeuvre.
Masters and Servant: James Taylor chips off meekly
Despite the mounting scoreboard pressure and burden of history, Hussey and Wessels batted with urgency and purpose, the former carving the ball to his favourite spots, cow corner and up and over the covers.
Wessels, meanwhile, ticked things over but ultimately failed to justify his selection above Steve Mullaney, who as well as similar batting ability would also have offered an alternative with the ball when the spinners were ‘going the D’.
For all the swinging and muscley intent, the boundaries dried up for Notts – 32 balls without finding the ropes – until an eventful sixteenth over that saw 19 runs, an incredible two-man boundary catch to see off Wessels, a dropped catch to reprieve Hussey (also put down on 33 by ten Doeschate), and two mighty sixes that briefly brought Notts back into the game as they entered the final four overs still with a puncher’s chance.
The small matter of 51 runs were still required, but the truth is that Essex’s bowling was too good, Notts’ tail too flaccid, and Tait decided the game with a hat-trick.
Doom and gloom sets in
Hussey smeared a low full-toss to the playing area’s big corner over in the direction of the TBI; Butler skewed a short ball to deep backward point, where Greg Smith held a fine running catch; then White was bowled by a yorker, backing away.
After that, i’s were dotted and t’s were crossed, and Notts were left to face yet more heartache, yet more introspection. It was, as they say, déjà vu all over again.