David Hopps writes on county cricket for ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps
Sussex 178 for 5 (Wright 54, Rashid 27*, Thompson 3-28) beat Yorkshire 177 for 7 (Kohler-Cadmore 55, Ballance 55, Mills 3-39) by five wickets
There has not been too much in life to cheer Rashid Khan in recent weeks. He was moved to paint the Afghanistan flag on his face in the latter stages of the Hundred to express his fears for the future of his country. But somehow, in the first quarter-final of the Vitality Blast, he escaped into the moment - and how - producing the cameo to squeeze Sussex home against Yorkshire with two balls to spare.
Inventive, outrageous, and a reminder that Rashid is one of T20's great crowd-pleasers: it was quite a finale. His unbeaten 27 from nine balls included two sixes, one almost miraculously pushed back into the field of play by Jordan Thompson, another thrashed straight back past him, helicopter fashion. With 22 needed from two overs, Rashid then tipped the balance with three successive boundaries against David Willey, the maddest of them a full toss flicked on the stoop over square leg. Chris Jordan hauled Matt Fisher over square leg to finish it.
Rashid, not available for Sussex for Finals Day, said: "Thanks to the coaching staff for sending me in early to finish the game. I think they bowled where I wanted. Even I don't know [where it's going] when I hit the ball. I just try to hit it strong."
This Yorkshire side has been their most adept for years at T20 cricket. Forced to play their home quarter on a neutral ground at Chester-le-Street because of preparations for the Headingley Test, they brought the boundaries in to an extent that some found absurd, but they could not bring in the victory with it. Dreaming of a treble a few weeks ago, they are now left with an outside chance of the Championship and would probably have to win all four games.
Both captains, Yorkshire's David Willey and Sussex's Luke Wright, agreed that Yorkshire had the best of the batting conditions, with the ball getting lower as the evening progressed. If Sussex's fielding was mediocre, Yorkshire's was utterly abysmal - Gary Ballance and Adam Lyth among the few exceptions. "Winning the toss and batting first we got the best of the conditions," Willey said. "I don't think it was anything to do with not being at home that we didn't get across the line tonight."
Yorkshire's 177 for 7 put Sussex under pressure, even allowing for a miniature outfield. Sussex's strength is in their bowling and, as if to exaggerate that, their selection appears to leave them a batter light - there were few other options than to promote Rashid up to No. 6. A strong start felt essential but even though Wright and Phil Salt provided it with 72 from 8.3 overs they always felt up against it.
Yorkshire were ragged in the field and both openers benefited. Matthew Waite, who had a particularly clumsy night, missed Salt's top edge at fine leg, as he raced back, by a distance when the batter was 5. Wright's escape came on 31, a colossal skier which Yorkshire happily left to the man with the gloves, Harry Duke, who barely laid them on it.
Salt, more subdued than normal, fell at long-on to Thompson, who also defeated Ravi Bopara's attempted steer. Wright, who had spent the Hundred bench-warming for Trent Rockets, was eager for the fray until Adil Rashid bowled him on the sweep. Delray Rawlins, as high as No. 4, rode his luck until Matt Fisher bowled him, leaving Rashid Khan to walk in with 43 needed from 21 balls and a plan to wreak havoc.
Yorkshire's innings owed much to Ballance. They have historically been wary of wristspin - Johnny Wardle, the maverick England left-arm spinner, was admonished for experimenting with "funny stuff" around 70 years ago - and suddenly they had three of them coming from all directions - Rashid, seeped in quality; Will Beer, long-serving and largely unsung; and little Archie Lenham, full of vim at barely 17, every cricket ground his stage this inaugural summer and barely a missed cue in sight. In Yorkshire, there is surely a by-law against such things but this was over the border in Durham.
Lenham was the quickest and spun it the most among the Sussex trio. Wright gave him the second over. Lyth decided to impose himself against a raw kid, skipped down the pitch and miscued to mid-on where Jordan flung himself low to his right to take a catch to justify the captain's gambit.
By the end of Yorkshire's innings, Lenham had exemplary figures of 1 for 19 in three overs - further lustre in his debut season - his only blemish two successive leg-side sweep-ups in his third over for Ballance when he failed to find the googly he wanted.
Ballance was Yorkshire's redeeming feature with 55 from 37 balls. It's been a while since the Ballance fan club demanded his England Test recall and that should be enough of an excuse. It is doubtful whether he has played as certainly all season. He was ignored for the Hundred, and there was little sense of building form in the 50-over competition. But he carried the fight with solid, determined blows against spin and seam alike. With five overs left, he scented destruction against George Garton but picked out deep midwicket.
Ballance joined Tom Kohler-Cadmore in a stand of 85 in 62 balls after Yorkshire had lost three for 33. Willey laid back to heave Garton over midwicket for six, perhaps goaded by some back-chat from the wicketkeeper, Salt, but trying to pull Tymal Mills ended his foray. Harry Brook was Yorkshire's in-form batter in the group stage, but Sussex matched him up with Rashid and his struggles were exemplified when he tumbled to the floor and, a little unfortunately, was adjudged lbw.
Kohler-Cadmore's 55 from 49 balls was out of character for such a freewheeling batter - at the midway stage he had 11 from 21 balls after a fair bit of playing and missing. He was also fortunate not to be given out caught at the wicket when 1. A straight drive against Garton, in the 16th over, was arguably his first convincing attacking shot.
Successive sixes against Jordan, driven full toss followed by a crafty uppercut, gave him his slowest T20 fifty. He fell seven balls from the end, Salt tanking after a top-edge against Mills to hold a catch five metres in from the rope. It felt like an Outcome Knock - to be praised if Yorkshire won, censured if they lost. Instead, about an hour-and-a-half later, it was largely forgotten - the impudence of Rashid attracting all the attention.
Yorkshire vs Sussex