Fletcher's yorkers dent Yorkshire's hopes
Nottinghamshire 143 for 9 (Taylor 52*, Sidebottom 3-24) beat Yorkshire 121 for 9 (Lees 37) by 22 runs
Yorkshire's decisive week of T20 cricket - five matches in eight days - has not begun well: a washout in the Roses match to do further damage to their precarious finances and defeat at Trent Bridge less than 24 hours later as they came to a sticky end on a glued pitch.
Nottinghamshire's 143 for 9 felt a touch off the pace, but only Alex Lees, with a mature 37 at a run a ball, came close to matching the composure of James Taylor's excellent half-century for the home side. Yorkshire's challenge foundered with 42 needed off four overs when Adil Rashid was bowled for 21 by the broad-framed Luke Fletcher as he drifted in an excellent yorker.
Two long-on catches by James Franklin, the experienced New Zealander, off Harry Gurney, rounded things off for Nottinghamshire, who strengthened their hold on third place and left Yorkshire facing the likelihood of a scrap for the final qualifying spot with Warwickshire.
"I thought they were 20 runs below par, but batting wise we were not good enough," said Yorkshire's captain Andrew Gale. "The pitch was a bit slower than we anticipated, but it was a good wicket and we didn't take it to the opposition enough. Luke Fletcher nailed his yorkers at the end - he must have bowled 12 out of 12 - but we had left ourselves too much to do by then."
Fletcher is old school: reliably hitting the blockhole, and sweating up profusely on a relatively cool afternoon. He completed the job efficiently , building on strong spells by Samit Patel and Steven Mullaney. Mullaney's offcutters were perfectly suited to such a surface and Patel also turned in an inexpensive shift as Yorkshire lost their way in mid-innings. "They have been outstanding for a couple of years now," said Taylor, who also regarded Nottinghamshire's total as 20 runs short.
The NatWest Blast is working well in Nottingham: an attractive team, a well-appointed ground and healthy crowds. With Yorkshire in town, even without the presence of England's withdrawn Test players - under instructions to rest with the first Test a fortnight away - the game had enough quality players to have widespread appeal.
Perhaps a dozen counties at most can hope to match the same standards. If the ECB remains forever resistant to franchises, believing that county cricket should value its traditions, then it needs to debate the advantage of two divisions based on merit so those counties providing the product England's T20 needs can gain maximum benefit.
It was Taylor, shrewd both as captain and batsman, who assembled an innings of note for Nottinghamshire. This was not the usual 180-par surface normally seen at Trent Bridge and Taylor reassessed his team's needs intelligently as wickets fell around him.
His first 16 came in singles, in 20 deliveries,as he adapted wisely from the outset, rarely needing to display any weight of stroke to increase his tempo as his innings progressed. His half-century came up from the final ball of the innings, a full toss bashed down the ground, a landmark hard earned. He keeps delivering in all forms of the game and, if he continues in this vein, there will come a day when England's limited interest begins to look illogical.
Around him there was a whole lot of head shaking going on: Phil Jaques fell for nought, trying to guide Ryan Sidebottom to third man, Riki Wessels, one of the leading runmakers in the tournament, sliced high into the offside and Patel misjudged the length against Azeem Rafiq and was bowled trying to cut. But the most impressive dismissal fell to Tim Bresnan, who showed rifle-crack reactions in his follow through as Alex Hales battered back a return catch.
When Taylor despatched Rashid's last delivery to the cover boundary, Notts had raised 100 with five overs remaining, but visions of a late charge to 150 were unfulfilled. Franklin has strengthened Nottinghamshire's overseas resources in T20 after the impending return to Australia of Peter Siddle, who was on a Championship-only deal, but when Bresnan claimed him for 27 at long off, Taylor had to settle for a total that proved to be more competitive than he dared hope.
Runs came no more easily for Yorkshire at the top of the order. Aaron Finch fell rather weakly at short fine leg, Gale's unimpressive stay ended when he carved to third man, Jonny Bairstow self-destructed at long-on and when Mullaney brilliantly ran out Adam Lyth off his own bowling, demands proved too much for Lees.
Yorkshire are left needing to win at least two of their three matches next week in a run of five games in eight games. You could debate long into the night whether such a rush of fixtures is a good or bad thing, but it is not a level playing field. Even allowing for a congested fixture list (a problem of their own making), surely the ECB, which claims to have brought sanity to the fixture list, can do better than this?
David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo