Beaten T20 Blast semi-finalists Gloucestershire and Lancashire held their hands up and offered no excuses after 11-over defeats, refusing to blame conditions for their exits and instead accepting that they were beaten by better teams.
Both sides were defeated convincingly batting first after a day and a half of persistent rain in Birmingham, Gloucestershire losing to Surrey with eight balls to spare after posting a below-par 73 for 7, before Lancashire's 94 for 4 proved to be too few against Nottinghamshire, who chased that target with 16 balls left.
Instead, both teams' captains pointed to their missing overseas players and hoped that the addition of international stars next season would propel them into the final.
Gloucestershire had signed Afghanistan legspinner Qais Ahmed and Australian seamer AJ Tye for the Blast, but cancelled their contracts due to the impact of the pandemic on both club finances and international travel. In previous seasons, they have been led by the talismanic Michael Klinger, who has been the linchpin at the top of their batting order.
"We've used our squad and guys have stepped up and chipped in at different times," said Jack Taylor. "We've got such a competitive squad, and we're having to leave guys out who want places in the team and that's without having overseas players."
"I've no doubt we'll come back next year and put in another strong showing like we have done in the group stages in the past four or five years. I don't think there are any excuses: we all wanted to play and prepared to play and were very excited to get out there but we weren't quite good enough. We didn't quite sum up the conditions - I reckon we only needed 15 more runs."
Lancashire, meanwhile, had planned to add Glenn Maxwell and James Faulkner to their squad for the second year in a row, but again had to cancel their contracts. As a result, they lacked power in the middle order with the bat, and added only 20 runs in the final 2.5 overs of their innings.
"Tonight wasn't our night," Lancashire captain Dane Vilas said. "Their overseas stepped up and did the business, with overseas players maybe being the difference tonight.
"I think momentum was with us: we were pretty confident at the halfway stage getting near that competitive 100 mark and then we squeezed with our spinners. But unfortunately, in any game Dan Christian hitting those sixes takes it away from you."
For the second year in a row, Vilas was left to rue his decision to bowl Livingstone at a crucial time. In last year's quarter-final, he bowled the 19th over against Essex and disappeared for three sixes; this evening, Christian managed one more off the eighth to effectively end the game as a contest.
"Credit to Livi," Vilas said. "He stuck his hand up and he wants to be that sort of guy who does well for us and has done it in the past. I was confident, and I was backing him tonight. I thought we had a chance when he was going with the bat, but it wasn't to be."