Nottinghamshire 201 for 4 (Hales 67, Taylor 35*) beat Yorkshire 200 for 5 (Finch 89, Bairstow 60) by six wickets
On a hot Friday evening suitable for a Meatloaf lyric or a William Faulkner novel the hopes of fervid home supporters at Headingley were dashed when Yorkshire lost to Nottinghamshire by six wickets in their final North Group match in the NatWest T20 Blast.
Their defeat means that Andrew Gale's men finish fifth in the group and are knocked out of this year's competition while second-placed Nottinghamshire, whose batsmen mounted a famous run-chase, will entertain Hampshire at Trent Bridge on August 3.
As much as anything the game was a victory for the resourceful top order Nottinghamshire have assembled this summer over the individual power-batting of Aaron Finch and Jonny Bairstow, both of whom made fifties in their side's total of 200 for 5. The defeat was particularly bitter for Finch, who made a 46-ball 89, including seven sixes, in his final innings for the county before he returns home to join a national training camp.
But cricket remains above all a team game and each of Nottinghamshire's six batsmen reached double figures as their side scored at a smidgeon more than ten an over to secure the spoils. Notts were given a good start by Steven Mullaney, who clubbed two sixes off Ryan Sidebottom's second over before he miscued Tim Bresnan to Alex Lees at mid- on.
The momentum was maintained by Riki Wessels, who added 70 in eight overs with Alex Hales before he, too, was caught by Lees, this time at deep midwicket off Azeem Rafiq for 29.
With seven overs of the innings left Nottinghamshire needed 85 and their major hope of victory seemed to have disappeared when man-of-the-match Hales, whose 40-ball 67 included three sixes, holed out to Bresnan, Rafiq taking the catch in front of a jubilant Western Terrace.
But still James Taylor's batsmen were not to be denied; still they managed to keep themselves in with a chance of victory, yet when Samit Patel was taken at long-on by Finch off Richard Pyrah, 39 were needed off 17 balls.
What followed will live long in the minds of Nottinghamshire supporters and may feature in coach Mick Newell's team talks when he reminds his players never to abandon hope. James Frankin and skipper Taylor simply demolished the Yorkshire attack, taking 20 runs off Sidebottom's last over and scoring a remarkable 38 runs off what turned out to be the final 11 deliveries of the game.
Franklin began the fun when he hit Pyrah for two leg side sixes and he finished it when he thrashed Bresnan into the football stand to complete his six-ball innings of 19 not out. In between those blows, Taylor stroked three stylish fours off Sidebottom before hitting the former England seamer right over the Western Terrace.
The change in the game's flow could not have been symbolised more graphically than by that shot. Nottinghamshire's short-form skipper finished with 35 not out off 14 balls; his innings should remain one of the highlights of his career.
Yet while the visitors' batsmen were applauded as they left the field the result will have come as a savage disappointment to many of the 8662 spectators at Headingley, many of whom arrived hoping to salute a victory and make their arrangements for the quarter-final.
No one will have been more crestfallen than Finch, whose innings took his team towards their season's best short form score. "Yawksher! Yawksher! Yawksher!" bayed the zealots on the Western Terrace and Finch responded with even greater style than he displayed in making 88 against Lancashire in June. Many of his sixes travelled many rows back into the crowd and were a triumph of timing as well as force.
His onslaught on Taylor's bowlers began with the seventh delivery of the game when Finch dispatched the former Yorkshire seamer Ajmal Shahzad over wide mid-off. The crowd yelled its delight, suggesting that whatever the Book of Luke suggests about prodigal sons, they get short shrift in Cleckheaton.
In company with Jonny Bairstow, Finch added 81 for the third wicket in eight overs on an evening when few bowlers on either side managed to avoid punishment. When Finch fell to a brilliant leg side diving catch by Chris Read off Franklin, Bairstow continued the onslaught, making 60 off 34 balls.
Jake Ball was the most successful Nottinghamshire bowler but even he may have doubted that his 3 for 38 was enough to help his side prevail. As Yorkshire continued to pile on the runs, three drummers looking for all the world like extras from Fritz Lang's Metropolis exhorted the crowd to yet more celebrations. They had reckoned without Nottinghamshire's batsmen. James Taylor and his men will certainly be a match for Hampshire in the quarter-finals, and a match for anyone on Finals Day, should they get there.
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NatWest t20 Blast
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