Notts crush Lancs to secure home advantage
Nottinghamshire 194 for 6 (Hales 82) beat Lancashire 134 (White 5-22) by 60 runs
Nottinghamshire secured home advantage for their quarter-final in the Friends Life t20 after a thumping victory over Lancashire facilitated by a typically spectacular 82 by Alex Hales and a career-best performance by their left-arm spinner, Graeme White, who will look back on 2013 as the year he helped two counties through to the last eight.
White's 5 for 22 eclipsed the 4 for 14 he achieved earlier in this year's competition, while he was on loan at Northamptonshire, who themselves booked a quarter-final place by beating Glamorgan in Cardiff on Friday.
He made three appearances for the Steelbacks during his month at Wantage Road, a move primarily designed to give him more opportunities in first-class cricket after failing to find a place in the Notts team. His parent club gave the go-ahead for him to play Twenty20 as well because they could not guarantee him a place.
But after watching his four-wicket performance against Gloucestershire in Northants' opening game, Notts found room for White on his return to Trent Bridge and he has rewarded them with 10 wickets in six matches.
"Trying to break into the Notts team has been hard work because we have a strong squad but all I can do is try to get wickets when I play, whether it is in the first team, the second team or on loan," White said. "I was pleased to go back to Northants to get some first-team cricket but I don't know whether anything more will come of that. I'm looking forward to playing for Notts in the quarter-final, if selected.
"Twenty20 is a format that suits me and it just seems to have clicked for me this year, when maybe I've got a bit more experience, a bit more nous about knowing what the batsmen are trying to do. There is a niche in this format for slow bowlers and long may that continue."
Hales's 82 - following the 38-ball 62 that clinched his side's place in the quarter-finals with victory over Yorkshire on Friday - came off 52 deliveries as he and Michael Lumb gave the home side an explosive start after Lancashire captain Glen Chapple had won the toss and opted to bowl first.
The pair blitzed 59 from 29 balls before Lumb was caught at mid-on from the last ball of the power play overs. Hales had an escape on 20 when Mitchell McClenaghan put down a chance at mid-on off Tom Smith and went on to play some outrageous shots, including three sixes in a row off the unfortunate Smith, who gained a small measure of revenge when he eventually ran Hales out with a direct hit from midwicket.
So dominant was the tall right-hander, who has an impressive record of 18 half-centuries in 80 Twenty20 innings, that the first 50 runs of his 63-run stand with Samit Patel came off 19 balls, with Patel contributing 2.
"It has been a difficult season for me in red-ball cricket - I just keep finding different ways to get out," Hales said. "But my technique is different for Twenty20 and I am able to put that to the back of my mind in these games. But hopefully I can take this form back into Championship cricket. My natural game is to try to get on top of the bowlers and if I can combine that with picking better options then hopefully it can come off."
Canny batting from Chris Read and Riki Wessels meant Lancashire would have to exceed their highest score batting second in Twenty20 by five runs to secure victory - and a home quarter-final for themselves - and they made the worst possible start when Stephen Moore chipped the first ball of their reply back to Patel, who would extend his haul in the competition to 14 by taking 3 for 34.
Smith and Croft hinted that Lancashire might be capable of getting close to their target with a third-wicket stand of 33, but once Smith had fallen to a brilliant boundary catch by Steven Mullaney at long-off and Croft was leg-before Lancashire were beginning to look out of it. When White claimed his third wicket in the space of nine deliveries as Simon Katich popped up a tame caught-and-bowled off a leading edge, they certainly were, although Lancashire had the consolation of knowing that they are already through to the last eight.
After pulling in more than 10,000 for Friday night's win over Yorkshire and 8,000 plus for this match, Notts can anticipate another bumper turnout for their quarter-final in addition to the £150,000 windfall generated by five full houses at the first Ashes Test; 2013 is turning into a golden summer for Notts, at least in financial terms.
The glow will be brighter still if there is a trophy to go with it, which is why there will be a heavy weight of expectation on the shoulders of Mick Newell's team when they reconvene here in just over a week's time. It will be their fourth consecutive quarter-final in a competition in which they have reached Finals Day only twice.