David Hopps writes on county cricket for ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps
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BAH v KUW (1)
Birmingham 261 for 2 (Hain 112*, Hose 88*) beat Nottinghamshire 206 (Clarke 86, Moores 40, Brathwaite 3-31) by 55 runs
What a week. Jonny Bairstow went haywire on this same ground only three days earlier, in a run-strewn Test that might have reinvented the format for a more restive age. Over in Amstelveen, earlier in the day, England had set an ODI record of 498 for 4 with Jos Buttler scoring England's second-fastest hundred in ODIs.
And now this, in the Blast. Birmingham strengthened their hold on a top-four place as they achieved the highest total in English T20 history, their 261 for 2 surpassing Yorkshire's 260 for 4 against Northants at Headingley five years ago, an unbroken stand of 174 in 70 balls between Sam Hain and Adam Hose, another record for the third wicket. It beat the 171 assembled by Hose, this time with Ian Bell, four years ago. Just seven better scores have ever been made in all world T20 cricket and one of those was by the Czech Republic over Turkey.
Amazingly, Notts kept up with the required rate for much of their reply, but Birmingham had crashed 113 from their last six overs and it was in these latter overs where the hosts came to grief. This, on the ground where the Outlaws have strutted for so long. When Carlos Brathwaite yorked Luke Fletcher to end Notts' innings with 10 balls remaining, it confirmed Notts' fourth defeat in eight and left them with considerable ground to make up to claim a quarter-final place that, in recent years, has appeared to be theirs by right. They have reached the last eight every year since 2010, except 2015 when they only missed out on net run rate.
Hain is surely the best 50-over batter never to play for England and, as his career progresses, his strike rate is quickening in T20, too. His unbeaten 112 (his first in this format) took 52 balls, with 12 fours and five sixes, and unusually for scores of this magnitude, he was not leg-side dependent. His first fifty passed by almost unnoticed, which might be his habit, but it was quite a feat on a record-breaking night like this. Perception is all. He does not quite fit England's gung-ho image and, if he can't get a gig on a tour of the Netherlands, it may be forever thus. Still, at least he can point to a T20 average at Trent Bridge of 411.
Hose's 88 from 35 balls, with three fours and 10 sixes, had more of a leg-side emphasis, although not exclusively. Dan Christian's medium pace was brutally punished, his three overs costing 59, his last two overs conceding six sixes, as Hose smashed 28 from his last of the innings.
Even on such an absurd night, Notts' bowlers claimed little victories. Samit Patel's first three overs cost only 21, and he claimed the wicket at long-on of Rob Yates, who was standing in because Paul Stirling had withdrawn for personal reasons and who reached his maiden T20 half-century. Luke Fletcher managed nine dot balls. Alex Davies had fallen in Matt Carter's first over, although Carter's expression became more morbid as the evening progressed, as if his native county of Lincolnshire had announced prohibition.
Trent Bridge was parched, drain lines on the outfield clearly visible, beige advancing upon green by the hour. The outfield was like glass and the boundary on the Fox Road side of the ground had also been brought in to an excessive extent. No hover cover needs that much room. Several sixes plopped roughly where the boundary fielder should have been and the extra jeopardy would have been more interesting. Nottinghamshire will argue that they were merely balancing the boundary distances with the pitch set well over to the other side of the ground, but they were probably happy to take on Birmingham in a six-hitting contest. They lost it 18-9.
Since Test outfields improved their drainage a decade or more ago, it only takes a heatwave to last a couple of days for bowlers to feel bereft. The most forlorn sight of the opening overs came from a drone shot from above the ground as Patel set off from short fine lag in hopeless chase of several sweep shots which had crossed the boundary before he had got into his stride. A much-loved figure in green and yellow cast adrift upon a sun-burnished field. Notts generally looked flat in the field, an uncommon sight for the Trent Bridge crowd which began to stream away long before the end.
It was not the sort of night for Notts to lose Alex Hales early, but Hain's contribution was not yet spent and he ran back at cover to hold an excellent catch off Olly Stone. Joe Clarke made a withering 86 from 45 balls in riposte to take the Outlaws to 150 for two, with 112 needed at 14.6 per over. But he fell at long-off and, even when the batters had such a licence to kill, the rate could not ultimately be sustained: the rest crashed in 36 balls. Brathwaite, Birmingham's Bajan captain, removed Clarke, who struck him off one knee to long off. Two victims for left-arm spinner Danny Briggs included Steven Mullaney, whose despairing loft to long off was his fourth duck of the tournament, the last three of them first ball.
Peter Moores, Notts' coach, was left to respond to those who felt a little sated by the experience. "I take the point that there's more to cricket than fours and sixes but I'd just say this was one of those nights, far from the usual. And it was great entertainment. I'd say let's take it for what it is: one of those nights, a brilliant pitch to bat on, brilliant weather to watch it. Not every game will be like that."