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August 27, 2011
Leicestershire 145 for 6 (Jefferson 35, Pollard 2-24) beat Somerset 127 for 9 (Trego 35, Cobb 4-22) by 18 runs
A stunning one-handed grab by the wicketkeeper Paul Nixon - in his final match in England before retirement - dismissed Keiron Pollard and inspired Leicestershire to the Twenty20 title in a stirring contest at Edgbaston. Set 147 to win under lights Somerset's star-studded line-up reached 89 for 3 in the 14th over but fell away to end 127 for 9 and leave Leicestershire champions.
It meant that Somerset finished runners-up for the their third cup final in succession, having missed out on both the Twenty20 and CB40 final last year. If that is unfortunate it would take a hard heart to begrudge Nixon and Leicestershire their success. Leicestershire have endured nothing but misery in the Championship but have now sealed their third Twenty20 title, more than any other side, having won the competition in 2004 and 2006.
One a day when some of the priciest Twenty20 stars in the world had treated county cricket to its first, and then, second Super Over, Nixon managed to upstage all that with a breathtaking defining catch to make himself the star. A 20-year-old at his sprightliest would have done well to reach the ball as Pollard edged Wayne Wright towards a vacant first-slip area, but Nixon defied his 40 years to pluck out a screamer. That it did for the most dangerous Twenty20 hitter in the game at a crucial moment made the story all the more remarkable.
Until Nixon's intervention the match was brewing into the third climatic finish of the day with Somerset, still with Jos Buttler to come, needing 57 from 38 deliveries. The wicket changed everything as Leicestershire upped their fielding to an electric level. Matthew Boyce, on as a substitute fielder, took four catches and prowled the midwicket rope to help Josh Cobb to four wickets and the Man-of-the-Match award. Considering Cobb's Finals Day started with a diamond duck in the first semi-final, it was quite a finish.
After rain played a decisive hand in the pair of semis it was fitting that conditions should play a role again in the final. Sunset seems the only thing more inevitable than drizzle and when evening drew in batting proved much harder. Leicestershire had a flying start to their innings but ran into treacle during the second half and Somerset's classy batting - chasing in darkness throughout - were unable to raise their tempo against what is, on paper, only a modest seam-dominated attack. Instead the ball wobbled around and it wasn't until Peter Trego found his range that anyone managed to time the ball regularly.
After the slowish start where neither Marcus Trescothick or Craig Kieswetter could quite get going Trego built a recovery. He reached 35 from 24 balls before pulling Cobb out to deep midwicket where Boyce slid round to snaffle a good chance. Before him James Hildreth played smartly for 21 from 20 balls in a 42-run stand with Trego that was supposed to lay the platform for the big-hitters that followed.
Yet neither Pollard nor Buttler could deliver. Buttler's matchwinning contribution in the semi-final had shown why he earned England selection and he began by scorching his first ball through cover for four. But before he could add another the Cobb-Boyce combination did for him and with that Somerset's final gun was silenced.
Given the quality of the cricket it was a pity how patronising the cricketainment gods felt they needed to be. Be it the organised wolf-whistling of scantily-clad cheerleaders or the constant blast of wedding-reception pop it was as though the marketing team had no faith whatsoever in their product. But the fans clearly enjoyed their day, and the enduring memory they left with was a classic sporting story of underdog triumph and a veteran's fairytale finish.
Plays of the Day from second ODI between South Africa and Pakistan, in Port Elizabeth
In all the talk of Bombay's credentials as a historical stronghold of Indian cricket, a region to the north gets overlooked