Carberry ton proves just enough
Hampshire 202 for 4 (Carberry 100*, Vince 60) beat Lancashire 201 for 4 (Brown 49, Moore 44, Croft 43*) by one run
Michael Carberry blazed and blasted Lancashire for his first Twenty20 century but the tenacious Red Rose refused to be bullied and gave Hampshire, the defending champions, the shock of their lives before falling a run short in a remarkable chase.
Carberry's 66-ball century was the defining innings of the match but first Karl Brown, then Steven Croft and Gareth Cross threatened to upstage him. It would have been some upset and Lancashire's highest chase in T20s but they failed by the narrowest margin. Hampshire were back at Finals Day.
Chasing 10-an-over Lancashire stayed in touch with a brave effort. They regularly found the necessary boundaries and ran just as well as Carberry and his partners had done. Hampshire thought two wickets in two balls for Danny Briggs had killed the reply but Lancashire almost pulled off the miraculous.
With 42 needed from three overs, Sohail Tanvir - who was in the Caribbean with Pakistan and missed Hampshire's final three group matches - criminally bowled a no-ball and was sent to the long-off boundary as 11 runs from the over kept Lancashire alive.
Chris Wood, who held his nerve to close out victory in the Clydesdale Bank 40 final last season, looked to be doing so again with block-hole deliveries but his final two balls were slightly overpitched and Cross went down to ramp the first to long leg for four and then slapped the sixth, a full toss, over long-on.
That meant 17 were needed from the final over and Tanvir was given the task. Another no-ball preceded two well-directed yorkers. But in striving for another, Croft lined up the length and blasted it over extra cover. A single and a scrambled two from a ball which went no more than a yard from the bowler's stumps meant four were needed from the final delivery. A low full-toss was swung down the ground, they could only get two and Hampshire breathed a mighty sigh of relief.
To get that close was a tremendous attempt considering the pummelling they had taken in the field albeit on a pristine batting surface. Although Carberry took the headlines, the onslaught had actually been started by James Vince who stroked a 30-ball 60 during an opening stand of 110 in 10 overs.
Carberry gave a chance to Stephen Moore at deep-backward square-leg when on 14. Glen Chapple thought he had bagged the prize wicket as Carberry hooked him into the deep. The Ageas Bowl fell silent as Moore ran in for the catch but he misjudged the flight, the ball carried over his left shoulder for four and the carnage began.
A stocky figure with big muscles, Carberry has ballistic power. His cock of the wrists in the backlift allows the bat to flash through and even strokes not perfectly timed have sufficient projection to find the rope. And when he does find the meat of the bat he sends the ball a very long way.
He found three such long balls. The first when Chapple wrongly decided a third over of his opening spell was a good idea during which a long hop was dispatched over midwicket. Kabir Ali was swung over long-on before Simon Kerrigan was hoisted into the sightscreen at the Northern End.
But it was the carving drives and flicks square of the wicket where Carberry's unconventional backlift benefitted him most. He placed the ball incredibly well and extracted plenty of twos. Lancashire were well and untruly given the run around.
Lancashire had selected two specialist spinners in Kerrigan and offspinner Arron Lilley, playing just his seventh T20, but any hope that pace off the ball would trouble Hampshire's power-hitters was quickly deadened. Neither bowler sent down his full allocation and conceded a combined 62 from six overs.
In contrast Briggs, Hampshire's leading wicket-taker in the competition, and Liam Dawson were far more economical. Briggs came up with two identical dismissals in the 12th over to seemingly swing the contest.
Both Brown, one short of a half-century, and Simon Katich, went back to cut deliveries that slid on to their exposed stumps. But Brown appeared unlucky as replays suggested the ball may have missed the stumps and it was wicketkeeper Adam Wheater's gloves that dislodged the bails.
Briggs then had Moore caught and bowled after a more patient innings that required some acceleration to become a match-winning knock. That impetus was provided by Croft and Cross and they nearly brought a glorious conclusion.
Alex Winter is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo