Leicestershire hold nerve in Eliminator
Leicestershire 132 for 6 in 18 overs (Razzaq 36*, Parry 1-15) tied with Lancashire 79 for 6 in 11 overs (Moore 43, Cobb 2-6) (D/L method)
One-over Eliminator Leicestershire 16 for 0 beat Lancashire 13 for 0
Twenty20 Finals Day was introduced to its first one-over Eliminator as a mad-cap semi-final swung one way and the other before settling in Leicestershire's favour as Will Jefferson clubbed 15 runs off four balls in a dramatic finish. The victory booked Leicestershire both a place in the final and a spot in the Champions League qualifier next month, but for now their thoughts will be on the Birmingham finale.
After rain had twice curtailed the game to leave Lancashire needing 80 from 11 overs, Gareth Cross clubbed a six off the final delivery to leave the scores level and set up the Eliminator. Stephen Moore had been Lancashire's highest scorer in the tournament and was given the responsibility of setting the target with Steven Croft. Moore started with a six down the ground and added a four as the fielder at deep-square leg misjudged on the boundary. Claude Henderson, however, finished with two dot balls.
Leicestershire had to chase 14 in their over and Jefferson made it look easy. Earlier he had seemed in good order during a 15-ball 23 but found better range against Gary Keedy. The first delivery was clattered through midwicket for four and the second down the ground. With four needed from the last two balls, Jefferson mowed a huge six deep into the stands over midwicket, sparking wild celebrations from both the Edgbaston crowd and the Leicestershire players.
Though it ultimately made for a thrilling finish, the clouds that stalked the ground all day twice delivered downpours to interrupt the game. The first, in Leicestershire's innings, lopped the match down to 18 overs a side but the second - after eight overs and one ball of the chase proved more decisive.
Lancashire had skipped out of the blocks to take 38 from the five Powerplay overs but were bogged down by Henderson's left-arm spin to be 53 for 1 when the rain arrived. With three games to squeeze into the day the chase was curtailed by the delay to leave Lancashire needing 27 from 17 more balls.
Their response was to hack wildly. Batsmen walked in and off a procession as five wickets fell. Joshua Cobb, whose contribution had been limited to a diamond duck, was given the penultimate six balls and delivered a fearless over of offspin that gave away just six runs and brought two wickets. Wayne White's final over had been superb until the last delivery - a low full toss - was dispatched by Cross over long-on to tie the scores. The crowd had started the day quietly but became ever more gripped by the wildly fluctuating match and were in raptures by the time the six set up an eliminator.
Up until that Super Over, the first semi of Finals Day had proved a tale of two matches. Batsmen profiting against seamers and hamstrung against spin. Through the match 18 overs from the quicker men went for 157 while the spinners shared five wickets for 44 in 11. Hampshire's trio of twirlers would have eyed each rasping turner with giddy anticipation.
While the wicket may have raised eyebrows it was not unexpected. Peter Moores, the Lancashire coach, said afterwards he had no complaints. "The wicket played pretty much what we thought," he said. "Edgbaston is pretty consistent, it sticks in the pitch a bit, mix your pace, it turns a bit. And it'll turn a bit more probably as the day goes on. But its nothing different. Normally 150 will be a good score, and that'll hold sway throughout the day."
That Leicestershire ended up victorious was all the more unlikely after they lost their way batting first against Keedy and Stephen Parry's left-arm spinners. With the ball gripping violently they were reduced to 82 for 5 by the 12th over. But, after a slow start Abdul Razzaq launched three sixes and two fours - sharing a crucial 40-run stand with Paul Nixon to haul them up 132. It proved enough, just, to extend Nixon's career that little bit more.
Sahil Dutta is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo