The Challenge Cup Final is a must in my sporting diary, that’s meant I haven’t been able to attend the T20 Blast Finals Day before, however this year it took place a week before the rugby league so I got my ticket ordered as soon as I could. This wasn’t to be a solo trip as my good friend Monica and her husband Kevin were joining me as part of a birthday celebration trip for Kevin.
After a fairly glorious summer Finals Day came with a weather forecast promising rain, which was less than ideal. I travelled up the day before and had a nightmare journey, taking well over 4 hours to get there, I saw a lot of nice countryside but hardly any motorway. I’d booked into the Perry Bar Travelodge as had Monica and Kevin, the only snag was their booking couldn’t be found, not the best news after a long drive, luckily they were able to book another hotel.
That however meant another 30 minute drive to go and have dinner, when in Birmingham only a curry will do, we walked to the Punjabi Rasoi restaurant from the new hotel and had a completely delicious curry which was most welcome after that drive.
I drove back to my hotel and had a good nights sleep, but woke to pouring rain, not the best sound and sight when you have a full day of cricket to watch! Unusually there’s an independent cafe attached to the Travelodge and the 3 of us had a very reasonably priced breakfast before heading off to Edgbaston.
We had great seats in the South Stand, I knew from my days at the England v Pakistan test we wouldn’t be needing sun cream in that stand, but the weather conditions also took away that requirement for most. In spite of the earlier downfall the first game was only slightly delayed.
Nottingham with Stuart Hales and Alex Hales back in the fold, played Northants in the first semi-final. These 2 had finished 1st and 2nd in the Northern group in spite of the fact that both have struggled in County Cricket this season they both know how to play white ball cricket.
Nottingham made 153 in their 20 overs, with wicketkeeper Chris Read top scoring with 30, it was a fine performance with the ball by Northants as well as in the field. Notts were 15 for 3 in the 4th over, a nightmare start they couldn’t recover from.
However Northants found themselves in exactly the same position in the 3rd over – 15 for 3! But, they had one Ben Duckett in their armoury, this was a young batsman I’d heard about but never had the chance to see, captain Alex Wakely was with him at the crease. What happened next was basically a masterclass in batting as Puckett hit 84 runs from 47 balls, he has an amazing array of shots and must surely feature for England soon. Duckett was bowled by Jake Ball but Northants had progressed to 138 for 4.
That innings along with Wakely’s 53 and a few ‘bits and bobs’ saw Northants to victory and the final.
The second semi involved Durham and England, otherwise known as Yorkshire a team chock full of stars, but, chock full of stars who hadn’t taken too much part in getting their team to finals day. It was always going to be the case that the likes of Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow would be included in the team, but on this day it was to be of no real benefit.
Durham batted first and an England returner Ben Stokes top scored with 56 from 36 balls hating 4 fours and 3 sixes, he was a sight for sore eyes! Durham made 156 in their 20 overs which didn’t feel a huge total with the batting available to Yorkshire?
A very welcome face in the Durham team was one Mark Wood, he’d been missed by England over the summer it was good to see him back, it was also good to see him make short work of the Yorkshire batting line up along with bowling partner Chris Rushworth.
Adam Lyth opened the batting and scored a great 64 as Yorkshire slumped to 86 for 5, not quite as dramatic as 15 for 3 but not good when chasing runs. Wood took 4 for 25 and Rushworth 3 for 19 with only Alec Lees and Jack Leaning making double figures aside from Lyth, Yorkshire were 149 for 9 at the end of their innings. Durham would join Northants in the final.
Having just played a game of T20 I’m not sure whether it’s better to bat or bowl, but in this instance Durham won the toss and elected to bat first. Wickets fell fairly quickly and they were 89 for 5 with only 2 of the top 7 batsmen making double figures, one Keaton Jennings looked to be on his way to a century when he was caught by Josh Cobb from the bowling of Rory Kleinveldt. Ben Stokes had been the other with 18 but his was the second wicket to fall.
Durham made 153 for 8 in their 20 overs. We had what felt like a bit of deja vu as Northants were 9 for 3 in the third over, only this time Ben Puckett was one of those out. That felt like a disaster, but I imagine Northants fans knew different. Step up Josh Cobb, anything Duckett can do so can Cobb, he made a wonderful 80 before falling victim to Rushworth, caught by Michael Richardson. However his innings was enough to set his team on the way to victory and the team that has played together through the competition won the trophy and well deserved too!
I loved the Finals Day experience, I am a fan of Edgbaston full stop and loved the atmosphere particularly as the day progressed, the Hollies Stand as always was a source of fun and the music and singing along really added to the day! I have a feeling the final next year may coincide with the opening of the Premiership Rugby season so I may not be there, but no clash and I’ll certainly be back!