Worcestershire 158 for 5 (Cox 46*, Moeen 41) beat Sussex 157 for 6 (Evans 52, Wright 33) by five wickets Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Throughout the Blast season the refrain had gradually become louder: Sussex have the finest bowling attack in T20, certainly in England, perhaps in the world. But Worcestershire survived it, ultimately relished it, the youngest side in the tournament, the county that had never been to Finals Day, emerging victorious by five wickets with nine balls to spare.
Worcestershire’s rush to victory came suddenly, perhaps unexpectedly. When Jofra Archer’s full toss accounted for the destructive left-handed hitter, Ross Whiteley, they needed 32 from 19 balls with five wickets left, on a pitch beginning to feel the exhaustion of an 11-hour day. It was not alone in that: this is an intoxicating day in more ways than one.
But Ben Cox, one of the finest, most underrated wicketkeeper-batsmen in the country, saw Worcestershire through with an unbeaten 46 from 27 balls, challenging Sussex’s pace attack with innovative flicks and glances. He was helped on his way by a single, stray delivery by Archer – a no-ball beamer which flew for four byes as his attempted scoop turned into a duck for cover, a resulting free hit and a six over square leg to exact full retribution.
For Moeen Ali, Worcestershire’s captain, a calming influence on a young side, satisfaction was immense. No recent summer has passed without suggestions he is leaving Worcestershire. He has stayed. And he has returned from a long England summer to guide them to glory.
At the end, the team dashed on to celebrate, Moeen walked on. “I was calm inside,” he said. “Our quarter-final was the hard one. We were amazing today. Credit goes to Bumpy Rhodes [the former coach] who brought all these guys up and we are chuffed to receive our first trophy.”
“He’s just a human being, same as the rest of us,” said Worcestershire’s head coach, Kevin Sharp, in the build-up the Vitality Blast Finals Day when asked how it was that Moeen integrated himself so successfully into the Worcestershire side when he returned from England.
But Worcestershire must have yearned for something superhuman as Moeen organised their pursuit of Sussex’s 157 for 6. It was the sort of score that an army of data statisticians might have chosen to make the chase exactly 50-50, but Worcestershire had to contend with a T20 bowling attack which has had admiration thrust upon it
No England cricketer feels as embedded into his county side as Moeen. He will even play relegation matches for Worcestershire in the next fortnight. He reached 41 from 27, rocking back to haul the left-arm spin of Danny Briggs over midwicket, majestically driving legspinner Will Beer over extra, and finding a valuable ally in his opening partner, Joe Clarke, who made 33 from 27 in an opening stand of 61 in 6.5.
Worcestershire were still reasonably comfortable at 80 for 2 at midway. Then a ball later Brett D’Oliveira was stumped, pushing forward at the left-arm spin of Briggs and the pressure again clamped down.
When Moeen fell to a tumbling catch in the deep at long-off by Phil Salt off Beer, they still needed 68 from 47 with six wickets left, the job far from done. He was so caught up in the game that he almost wandered into Sussex’s dugout by mistake.
Worcestershire can also celebrate one of the great nought-fors in Blast finals. Pat Brown’s unrewarded four-over spell cost only 15 runs, but his exceptional economy rate compressed Sussex’s innings every time he had the ball in his hand. Such is his trickery, honorary membership of the Magic Circle should await.
Brown is slight figure for a fast bowler, barely 20, and looking as if you would want to know what time he would be back when he went out for his birthday celebration.
But he is a master of deception already. His stock ball is his knuckle ball, but as a variation he bowls a decent offcutter and can also up his pace above 80mph. The Blast is drawing quality from England’s young cricketers and those who disparage it are not observing closely or kindly enough.
He began the final with 31 wickets, four freshly gathered in Worcestershire’s semi-final defeat of Lancashire: only Danny Briggs, who took 31 for Hampshire in 2010, and Alfonso Thomas, 33 for Somerset in the same season, could rival that. Sussex saw him off, but when it came to formulating an attacking response they found him unfathomable.
Luke Wright found himself nodding down the pitch in recognition of Brown’s quality. The highest score on T20 Finals Day – 92 in the semi-final victory against Somerset – and a judicious 33 from 25 in the final: for Wright it was a good day, the highest combined runs total ever achieved. But it was not just a judicious innings but slightly careworn.
It took some strong blows down the ground – two fours and a six – off Ed Barnard to take Sussex to 78 for 2 by midway, but he was that second wicket, one ball before the end of the 10th over, when Moeen bowled him on the charge.
At the end of the Powerplay, Sussex were only 43 for 1, Salt falling wastefully. Salt’s strokeplay can be as disdainful as any young player in the country, as two sixes quickly testified, but he was distraught at his carelessness when he jogged an easy single to backward point, had both feet beyond the crease, but had both in the air when D’Oliveira’s pinpoint throw broke the stumps.
Moeen took wickets at vital times. Delray Rawlins, who had begun with consecutive sixes in D’Oliveira’s sole over of leg spin, smoothed over long-on and square leg in turn, holed out to Moeen off a leading edge at long-off, his balance all asunder; David Wiese chopped on to be bowled.
Laurie Evans has held Sussex’s innings together all season, and his 52 from 44 balls followed a familiar pattern, but Sussex’s innings died away as it had in the semi-final. It was workable score but only such a fine attack, on a surface about to withstand its sixth innings of the day, could have had confidence that they could defend it. Cox ensured otherwise.
Source : ESPN Cricinfo