Patel heroics can't deny Durham
Durham 189 for 9 (Di Venuto 70, Patel 3-27) beat Nottinghamshire 188 (Patel 114) by one wicket
This may well turn out to be the one-day innings of the season. Add to that the three vital wickets he took when Durham's middle order collapsed chasing what appeared to be a certain victory. And the match itself - in the last hour a walk in the park for Durham turned into a thrilling one-wicket victory as they almost succeeded in self-destructing. The final honours belonged to Gareth Breese, who kept his head and hit a four through extra cover and a straight six to win the match with six balls to spare.
Nottinghamshire won the toss and decided to bat under a generally sunny sky. The decision had an element of risk in it, as the previous day had been one of light rain, which could not have left the pitch unaffected. The Durham seamers found a little swing, a little movement, nothing extravagant, but it proved too much for the hapless Nottinghamshire batsmen. With one exception.
Nottinghamshire's trials began with the sixth ball when Callum Thorp trapped the opener Will Jefferson lbw. Wickets continued to fall at irregular intervals, the most spectacular being the run-out of Adam Voges for 13. He made the error of trying to steal a single to Neil McKenzie at mid-on, only for the fielder to swoop on the ball and throw down the stumps brilliantly.
The match appeared to be no contest at 102 for 8. But Patel was still there, and now he took over, helping by two virtual sleeping partners. Darren Pattinson scored seven out of 48 for the ninth wicket; Charlie Shreck two while they added 38 for the last. However, they did a vital job as Patel played the innings of his life. Once or twice he enjoyed slices of luck, swinging and missing, with twinges of desperation, but he knuckled down again and continued with his Mission Impossible. Runs came all around the wicket, but his powerful driving was most impressive.
He brought up his century with a six off Breese, just to the off side of straight, and then put the next ball into the stand beyond long-on. It was his first one-day century. He was the last-man out, deceived by a quicker yorker from Ben Harmison as he moved across his stumps and tried to sweep. His 114 came off 113 balls, contained 17 fours and two sixes, and was more than 60 per cent of the innings total of 188.
There were two wickets each for Thorp, the Harmison brothers and Breese, and the Durham bowlers generally did a good job. Steve Harmison bowled with considerable accuracy, but without real venom.
If Nottinghamshire thought they had put themselves - or rather, that Patel had put them - back in the match, Durham soon set out to disillusion them with dominant early batting. Phil Mustard, despite poor form this season, did his best to play in the attacking fashion that served him well in the past, but was caught at slip for 14. Will Smith settled in with Michael Di Venuto, who built a very firm foundation before starting to open out, and at 127 for one it looked all plain sailing for the home side.
Then the wheels began to come off - and it was their own fault. Perhaps complacency set in, but the balance of the match swung startlingly. It was that man Patel who started it, but he had unwitting help from Smith (41), who unaccountably patted back a simple return catch. Next over, Di Venuto (70) drove Pattinson to short extra cover, another soft dismissal, and the slide was under way.
Dale Benkenstein was distinctly unimpressed to be given out caught at the wicket off Patel for 3, but his fellow South African, McKenzie, played a woeful shot to be caught at midwicket for the same score. Panic seemed to set in, as Nottinghamshire came to life again with new vibrancy and Durham fought to overcome a situation they had never anticipated.
Patel finished his spell with 3 for 27, recording the best bowling as well as the highest score in a match his team ultimately lost. Apart from the result, it was a story from schoolboy fiction. In real life, the ultimate individual match-winner, Breese - the man who had snatched a similar victory against the same opponents at the same venue last year - was still at the crease.
He did it again. Steve Harmison failed to overcome the pressure, holing out easily to mid-off, and last-man Mark Davies, who had left the field during the first innings feeling unwell, had to come in and do his part. Once or twice Breese seemed to forget his responsibilities in retaining the strike, but Davies kept his wicket intact and made it all possible.
Twelve were needed off the last two overs. Breese began with a single, very dubious in the situation, but Davies scrambled one to restore him the strike. There was to be no more fooling around. The four and the six that followed and, despite the heroics of Patel, it was the holders of the Friends Provident Trophy who were celebrating their success in reaching the semi-finals again.