Crash, bang, wallop!…..Nottinghamshire begin their campaign in the Twenty20 competition this Friday with a day-night match against Worcestershire at Trent Bridge. Running from May to mid-July, the Vitality Blast sees Notts in the North Group with eight other teams. Previous winners in 2017 and 2020, no side in the country has won more T20 games than the Notts Outlaws who are again one of the favourites to win this year’s competition. With a batting line-up containing the likes of Alex Hales, Dan Christian, Samit Patel, and the Second XI youngsters Sol Budinger and Dane Schadendorf, the county boast a powerful group of batsman known for their big hitting.
Now in its 20th year, we take a look at some of the closest matches in the county’s history in the short format of the game, including several tied matches.
In a game from 2010, Northamptonshire were struggling at 29-3 in the fifth over, before Alex Wakely (43 off 43 balls), and captain Andrew Hall (40 not out off 37), saw the side total 121-7 in their 20 overs, which contained just ten fours. Darren Pattinson (4-19 in four overs), and Paul Franks (1-20), bowled tightly for the county.
Notts were in trouble at 23-4 in six overs, with both Hales and Patel dismissed for ducks as Sri Lankan Chaminda Vaas took three early wickets. Matt Wood then made 41 off 32 balls, and Steven Mullaney compiled a 38-ball 50. From 99-7 in 17 overs, Notts accumulated 18 off the next two overs to leave them needing five off the last over. However, they lost a wicket off the second ball, Mullaney for 53 off 43, and despite a Graeme White boundary off the third ball, Hall’s tight bowling saw both Pattinson and White run out off the final two balls as the match ended level with Notts bowled out for 121.
During the same season, the two counties were again unable to be separated. Jack Brooks, with two wickets in three balls, saw the county reeling at 13-3 in 4.2 overs, before Patel (40 off 32), and Australian David Hussey (41 off 32), put on 76 in nine overs. Chris Read (28 not out off 21), saw Notts eventually total 144-7 in 20 overs.
Vaas (47 off 30), helped Northants to reach 50-1 in five overs, then 75-1 in the tenth, before they slumped to 123-5 in the 18th over. Starting the last over needing ten to win, Northants lost three wickets in four balls, all run outs, as the final ball approached with three still needed. Brooks took two off that final delivery as the scores were levelled up at 144-8. Patel (1-24 in 4), and White (1-21 in 4), provided the tight bowling.
There was another tight finish five years later, as the Outlaws won a game off the final ball. Opponents Lancashire were struggling at 4 for 2 in two overs, then 13-3 in the third, before knocks from Karl Brown (51 off 43), Steven Croft (51* off 46), and James Faulkner (32* off 25), led the Red Rose county to 137-4. Mullaney had the excellent figures of 1-14 in his four overs.
Alex Hales began the Notts reply with 30 off 28 balls (5 fours), and Riki Wessels added 28 off 31, but from 63-1 in the 11th, the county slid to 125-6 with one over to go. Read took a two and a four off the first two balls, before being dismissed for 11 off five balls. A bye was taken, leaving captain James Taylor needing six off two balls. He duly crashed two boundaries off the final two deliveries to finish on 33 from 21 balls, and give Notts a win by three wickets.
The last two years has remarkably brought four tied games involving the county. In 2020, they faced local rivals Leicestershire, and after having them on the ropes at 7-2 in the third over, saw them reach 139-7 in their allotted overs. Colin Ackermann (43 off 33), and Harry Swindells (58 off 43, 8 fours), were their main scorers.
Joe Clarke, with 35 off 22 balls (3 fours & 3 sixes), helped Notts to 58-1 before plummeting to 99-6 in the 16th. Tom Moores made a useful 26 off 21 balls, but it was Samit Patel who took the county to the brink. Needing 13 off the final over, he walloped two, six, and a single off the penultimate three deliveries, leaving Imad Wasim to get three off the final ball. He scampered two as a misfield took place in the deep, to level the scores up; but the result secured a place for the county in finals day. Patel finished unbeaten on 28 off only 16 balls.
Last year, the county managed to feature in three tied matches. Facing Worcestershire at New Road, the home side looked hopeless at 26-3 in the fourth over. Jake Libby (52 off 43), and Ross Whiteley (42 off 35), then added 78 as the total reached 152-6 after 20 overs.
Joe Clarke (45 off 21, 2 fours & 4 sixes), and Alex Hales (31 off 18, 2 fours & 3 sixes), put up 76 in six overs for the first wicket in a brutal onslaught. However, the county trudged along to 128-5 in the 16th over, and reached the final over needing five to win. After a run and a bye, Luke Fletcher was run out off the third ball. Matthew Carter took a single off the fifth, leaving Peter Trego to get two off the final delivery. He hit the ball to the leg side and took one but was run out going for the second, after hitting 35 off 38 balls.
Under two weeks later, they faced Lancashire at Old Trafford, and had Hales to thank for a fast start, with 33 off 17 deliveries (seven fours), and with Duckett (35 off 23), and Moores (48 off 40), also making contributions, Notts looked stable at 172 after 20 overs, despite losing five wickets for 18 runs in 2.1 overs. Keaton Jennings (88 off 61 balls), and Finn Allen (60 off 43), opened the reply with 118 for the first wicket in 13 overs. They approached the final over however, still needing 12 to win. After singles were taken off the first four deliveries, Jennings launched a six off Fletcher, before succumbing to another run out going for the second run off the last ball. Patel (1-18 in four), and Mullaney (1-25 in four), had kept things tight throughout the innings for the final climax.
Finally, five days later, Notts completed their sixth tied game in English twenty20 cricket, as they conceded a boundary off the final ball against Derbyshire. Hales went bowled first ball, but Clarke went off like an express train, and collected 36 off 16 balls (8 fours). From 51-1 in the fifth, the county slumped to 94-8 in 14 overs. Mullaney (19), Carter (15*), and Ball (18* off 11), added some late quick runs as Notts totalled 137-9.
Luis Reece (51 off 30), helped the home side to 68 without loss in the eighth over. They then proceeded to lose four wickets for one run in five balls, as they bombed to 129-9 in 18.3 overs. Three batsman were dismissed first ball. With eight needed off the final over, three singles were taken off the first five balls, before Mark Critchley, who finished unbeaten on 27, drove the final ball off spinner Calvin Harrison to long-on where Budinger dropped the catch and saw the ball go for a four. Patel (2-17 in four), and Harrison (2 for 9 in two), had looked like giving the Outlaws a victory.
*Article provided by Hitesh Darji (Cricket Correspondent)
*Main image @TrentBridge Joe Clarke against Lancashire in 2020 will be looking for a big hitting campaign again.