Ali secures dramatic last-ball double
Hampshire 244 for 5 (Adams 66, Ervine 57) beat Warwickshire 244 for 7 (Bell 81, Wood 3-39) by virtue of losing fewer wickets
Hampshire have proved more than a few times this season that it pays not to write them off and here they did so again, denying County Champions Warwickshire despite Ian Bell's 81 to steal a heart-stopping victory at Lord's.
With the scores tied, Neil Carter, playing his final match for Warwickshire, failed to collect the required single off the bowling of Kabir Ali to give Hampshire the trophy by virtue of having lost fewer wickets. Following their last-over win against Yorkshire in the Friends Life t20, this must surely have been the most dramatic one-day double in county cricket's history.
Bell had seemingly done enough to take Warwickshire home, passing fifty for the fourth time in a domestic one-day final. But Hampshire are more than the sum of their parts and when Bell picked out Michael Carberry at deep square leg with 27 required they had the crucial wicket. Just as during the 2005 C&G Trophy final, Bell's half-century against Hampshire was to be in a losing cause.
Until then, he had guided the chase in phlegmatic style. Wickets fell around him but although 83 were needed from the final ten overs, and 52 from the last five, Bell exuded a sense of control. Even when he departed, Chris Woakes took up the challenge and, with seven required from the last six balls, Warwickshire appeared to be the favourites. But Ian Blackwell was bowled and despite Carter's shovelled four off the penultimate delivery, Ali, like Chris Wood in Cardiff three weeks previous, held his nerve, beating the bat before sprinting off to be engulfed by his team-mates in celebration.
It was a poignant moment for Ali, born in Birmingham but discarded by Warwickshire at a young age, and came after he had dropped Bell earlier in the innings, a difficult chance at long leg when the batsman had 41.
Wood was also magnificent, his concession of just a single and a leg bye from the 35th over, in which he also dismissed Rikki Clarke, a crucial point in the match. His 3 for 39 followed 3 for 26 in the FLt20 final and, having scored his maiden first-class century the day before that, it is fair to say he has had quite a month.
This has not been a stellar year for Bell, by his his own high standards, but one-day cricket has been his tonic. Put him in a snooker hall and he would likely chalk up a 147, such has been his affinity for the white ball. A conversion to opener for England's ODI side brought a century and four fifties and it seemed as if his season would end with a match-winning hundred in a one-day final at Lord's. It wasn't to be.
Warwickshire, mssing the services of William Porterfield, at the World Twenty20 with Ireland, curiously preferred Darren Maddy as Varun Chopra's opening partner. Bell had previously guided them to victory in the 2002 B&H Cup final - scoring 65 not out batting at No. 3 - and against Somerset in the CB40 in 2010 - when he scored 107 at No. 4 - but it was to be his 54 in vain seven years ago that provided the precedent.
With Hampshire in dark blue and Warwickshire in black, both offset by yellow piping, there was little to tell the sides apart visually. In such a tight finish, even the scorers had trouble - Carter was not stumped off the last ball, as he appeared to have been in the frantic finale. The association was more than kit deep, too: both had won a title already this season; both had won Lord's finals of recent memory (Hampshire in 2009, Warwickshire in 2010); and both line-ups featured veterans from 2005.
Hampshire were led to victory by a Sean Ervine hundred that day and he made his side's most vibrant contribution with the bat this time around. After the final-day draw that sent last season's Championship pennant to Lancashire, Warwickshire fans will likely swear off holidays to the New Forest for a while.
Even with an attendance of 16,000 and a fair proportion of the white seating left empty, Lord's still jostled and thrummed with the excitement of a crowd that seemed demob happy, eager to drink from the county cup one last time. Children played kwik cricket on a section of the nursery ground, young men in ties mingled with old men in baseball caps, while the interval entertainment was provided by a troupe of schoolgirls performing a dance routine on the outfield. The atmosphere was lively and expectant and the spectators were treated to a denouement that will resonate long in the memory. The one-day competition needed a final like this.
Put in to bat under milky blue skies after Warwickshire won the toss, Carberry and James Vince set about the task with the sort of cold-blooded violence that marked their decisive 129-run opening stand in the semi-final against Sussex. Carter started with a leg-side wide that set the tone and neither he nor Woakes could curb the enthusiasm of Hampshire's openers.
Vince pushed his "Michael Vaughan" buttons early on, strictly come dashing out of the crease a couple of times and threading one exquisite drive between extra-cover and mid-off. Having taken Carter for successive boundaries, however, he pulled the next ball flat to deep square leg. Carberry, meanwhile, left-hooked Woakes for six over deep midwicket during an over that cost 14 but he too departed tamely soon after. From 70 for 2 after 11 overs, Warwickshire steadily obtained a handle on the scoring rate, as spinners Blackwell and Jeetan Patel wheeled away in bright sunshine.
A dogged innings from Hampshire's captain, Jimmy Adams, kept the scoreboard ticking but it was left to Ervine and Simon Katich to haul Hants up towards 250, as they turned on the tap in the final overs. Carter was handled without a trace of sentiment as the fifth-wicket pair put on 69 from 43 balls before Ervine was cramped for room after making a breezy 57.
It was becoming difficult to get Carter's selection, other than on nostalgic grounds, until the final over, when he could not be got at, conceding just four singles. In the end, however, it was Carter's inability to get anything on the last ball of the day that proved decisive.
Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo