Last night saw the last two quarter-final matches in the Friends Life t20 competition. Yorkshire Carnegie welcomed the Worcestershire Royals to Headingley and the Nottinghamshire Outlaws hosted the Hampshire Royals at Trent Bridge.
The Yorkshire Carnegie captain, Andrew Gale, had no hesitation in batting first on a good batting pitch up in Leeds and his batsmen did not let him down. There were significant contributions from England Lion star Joe Root (65 from 40), overseas player David Miller (50 from 25), and Gary Ballance (46* from 20).
When Root fell at the end of the 14th over with the score on 126, Worcestershire would have been hoping to restrict the hosts to less than 180. After 15 overs, Carnegie were on 130 for 4 but the last five overs brought 82 runs in a show of power-hitting from Miller and Ballance. The last over was particularly brutal as Ballance smashed 4 maximums to take the hosts up to a final total of 212 for 5.
The Worcestershire reply started well, however wickets in-hand were always going to be key. The Royals finished the 6 over powerplay on 58 for 2 having lost both openers Vikram Solanki (1 from 4) and Moeen Ali (17 from 10) cheaply. After 10 overs, Worecestershire were still in the hunt at 94 for 2, needing just under 12 runs per over. An amazing piece of fielding that saw Root and Miller combine for a catch brought about the third wicket and from there some tight bowling from Azeem Rafiq (4 overs, 1 for 26) and overseas player Mitchell Starc (4 overs, 3 for 24) proved the difference. Despite the efforts of Aussie Phil Hughes (80* from 53), the Royals came up short by 29 runs and Yorkshire Carnegie had done enough to book their first ticket to the T20 finals day.
The last quarter-final between the Nottinghamshire Outlaws and the Hampshire Royals at Trent Bridge proved to be the most exciting match of the round, with the game going right down to the wire.
The visiting captain, Dimi Mascarenhas, opted to bowl first and his decision was rewarded by the removal of Alex Hales for a first ball duck. A cameo from Riki Wessels (19 from 6) got the Outlaws started and a big contribution from Samit Patel (60 from 33) saw the hosts post 178 for 7 from their 20 overs.
On a good Test match wicket, the chase was always going to be tight. Nottinghamshire always appeared control as they took regular wickets and after 10 overs, Hampshire were 78 for 5 still requiring 101 runs to win. When their sixth wicket fell on 128, they needed an unlikely 51 from just 26 balls. All hope rested on the shoulders of captain Mascarenhas and South African veteran Neil McKenzie. Having reached his half-century off 37 balls, McKenzie increased his tempo and began to find the boundary at will. Still needing 33 from 18 balls, the hosts appeared favourites and when it got down to needing 11 off just 4 balls, all seemed lost for Hampshire. Two consecutive fours from McKenzie brought the target down to 3 from 2 balls. A scrambled 2 brought the scores level and a 4 from McKenzie off the last ball saw the Royals complete a terrific run-chase to book their place at finals day for a third consecutive year.
The semi-final line-up on August 25th sees the Hampshire Royals take on the Somerset Sabres and Yorkshire Carnegie will play the Sussex Sharks.