Star-laden Notts fail to fire
Warwickshire 156 for 5 (Evans 45*, Patel 3-26) beat Nottinghamshire 138 for 7 (Hales 30) by 18 runs
If the NatWest t20 Blast was only about marketing, then Nottinghamshire would be the clear winners. Where some counties are nervously reassessing their projected gate receipts, Trent Bridge has been reaping the benefits of smart advertising and competitive pricing to the tune of around 32,000 through the gates for the first four home matches.
Unfortunately, all the sterling work clearly being done off the field is not being matched on it, three of those four matches ending in defeat, the latest sending home a crowd of almost 8,000 disappointed, probably wishing they had stayed home for Spain against the Netherlands.
Warwickshire, clocking up a third straight win in the North Division, deserve credit for a superb fightback after posting what had looked like a below-par score of 156 for 5 on a good wicket, unable to make the most of a fast outfield and a short boundary on one side.
Nottinghamshire appeared as if they would cruise home after an explosive start, racing to 53 in five overs as Michael Lumb and Alex Hales threatened to make it a spectacular night. Hales hit Boyd Rankin for two fours and two sixes in the same over, Lumb struck the otherwise tight Chris Wright for three fours in a row and both took advantage of a plainly nervous Recordo Gordon, a seamer making his Twenty20 debut.
But everything changed in the next over when Shoaib Malik, the Pakistan all-rounder, dismissed both in the space of three balls. Hales went down the pitch to Malik's off-spin and was bowled and Lumb, swinging carelessly, was leg before.
After that double setback, Nottinghamshire never regained their momentum. They simply could not get on top of Jeetan Patel, whose four overs cost only 18 runs, Ateeq Javid bowled his off-spin nicely and Wright, Rankin and Gordon all recovered well, Gordon deserving the joy he experienced when he dismissed Mullaney and Taylor in the same over.
The wicket of the Nottinghamshire captain was particularly important, given that he was the one remaining hope that the home side might somehow pull off what by then had become an increasingly difficult chase, in which 54 were needed from the final five overs.
Warwickshire's victory owed much, in the end to Laurie Evans, who looked in the best form of the Warwickshire batsmen and whose unbeaten 45 off 23 balls was crucial, leading a partnership with the innovative Ateeq Javid that added 67 unbroken for the sixth wicket.
Nottinghamshire could at least console themselves that their fielding was much improved after they had contrived to drop Marcus North, the dangerous Australian hitter, no fewer than four times Derbyshire a week ago - a match in which it was a wonder they won so comfortably.
This time their work in the field was of the highest quality, showcased by two stunning catches, one by James Taylor at backward point when Jonathon Webb went down the pitch and slashed hard at Samit Patel. Another left the Trent Bridge crowd aghast. Patel again was the bowler and Shoaib, the victim, driving the ball down the ground with full power but failing to beat Riki Wessels, who ran 10 yards to his right and dived full length at long-on, holding on with both hands for good measure.
The Malik wicket looked to be a key moment. As it was Evans took responsibility, hitting 19 runs in a single, expensive over from the young off-spinner Sam Wood as the innings acquired some belated momentum.
Warwickshire were 39 for 2 after the powerplay overs and could not kick on in the following six as Steven Mullaney and Patel bowled with a good deal of skill. The left-arm spinner, whose form in county cricket has put him at least in consideration for an England recall, finished with 3 for 26 from his four overs, Mullaney ending wicketless but conceding only 25.
"It was disappointing with such a good crowd in again," Taylor said afterwards. "We are normally so strong at home. That sixth over was critical, losing Hales and Lumb one after the other and we never got a partnership going after that. It was difficult on that pitch against the slower bowlers and we just kept losing wickets at key moments.
"On paper we have one of the strongest batting line-ups but at the moment no one is putting his hand up and playing that big innings we need."