Notts Outlaws keep hopes of retaining Royal London Cup alive

Jake Ball bowled the delivery of the day as Notts Outlaws claimed a vital narrow victory.'PICTURE BY MARK FEAR/MARK FEAR PHOTOGRAPHY
Jake Ball bowled the delivery of the day as Notts Outlaws claimed a vital narrow victory.'PICTURE BY MARK FEAR/MARK FEAR PHOTOGRAPHY

Matchwinner Luke Fletcher said Notts Outlaws thrived on the Trent Bridge atmosphere and praised the home crowd as the Royal London One-Day Cup holders held their nerve to defeat Worcestershire Rapids at Trent Bridge and keep alive their hopes of retaining the Royal London One-Day Cup.

Defending a sub-par total of 202, the home side bowled out Worcestershire for only 164 to pull off an unlikely victory by 38 runs.

Fletcher led the way with the ball, returning career best figures of four for 20 as the visitors were bowled out in 47.2overs.

“We said that we needed to go hard with the ball in their first powerplay and take some wickets — and we delivered, by getting three,” said Fletcher.

“We seem to keep putting ourselves in tricky situations, and we did that last year as well and kept coming through.

“We seem to thrive on the atmosphere; the crowds have been fantastic here and the players enjoyed the support we got and are very grateful.”

The bowler said he was pleased with his career-best figures.

“It’s about time I fronted up and did something for the team because I’ve had a few tough games,” he said.

“So to come out and set the tone was pleasing from my point of view but I thought everyone else backed it up really well.

“We gave them nothing really and everyone fielded really well.”

Daryl Mitchell made 62 in the chase but far too many of his team-mates gifted their wickets away as the defending champions kept a tight grip on the run-rate.

The loss was particularly hard on Moeen Ali, who also had his best day with the ball with figures of four for 33 as Notts were bowled out for only 202 in 45.1 overs.

Riki Wessels, with 50, top-scored for the holders, who faced elimination had they been defeated. Alex Hales, playing his first match of the season for his home county, after returning from Indian Premier League duty, made just 21.

Worcestershire head coach Kevin Sharp said: “The pitch was a bit different to what you normally see at Trent Bridge.

“It was a lot slower and it gripped a bit and spun, so there’s not been the sort of runs that you normally get here.

“We’re disappointed - but the one thing I’m pleased about is that all season, when we’ve looked as though we might be down and out in a game we’ve always got back into a position where we just might win — and that happened again today.

“I know we were 30-odd short at the end but I thought we could still win, so that’s a good sign.”

Defending such a modest target the home side needed to make early inroads and were indebted to early bursts from Fletcher and Jake Ball which reduced the Rapids to 21 for three.

Ball cleaned up Ali with a candidate for ‘delivery of the day’ whilst Fletcher removed Joe Clarke and Callum Ferguson, who only made six after his 192 against Leicestershire on Tuesday.

Mitchell remained defiant, whilst partners came and went at the other end. Matt Carter followed up his four-wicket haul on debut this week, with the scalp of Ben Cox and fellow spinner Chris Nash picked up his first Outlaws wicket by having Ross Whiteley caught at mid-off.

Whilst Mitchell was at the crease Worcestershire appeared to be favourites but their hopes evaporated when he tamely chipped Steven Mullaney to midwicket.

Ed Barnard made 36 towards the back end of the innings but was last out, when bowled by Samit Patel.

Earlier, Notts struggled to build any momentum under cloudy skies. Openers Wessels and Hales added 44 from the opening powerplay overs but were then separated by Barnard, as the England international chopped on.

Ali’s first two victims fell in identical fashion after sharing in a third-wicket partnership of 63. Wessels reached his 50 from 51 deliveries but fell a ball later, bottom-edging onto his stumps and Ross Taylor did the same, after making 47.

Pace off the ball continued to work for the Rapids, with Brett D’Oliveira removing Patel and Mullaney in the same over during an excellent spell of two for 46.

Notts, normally a free-scoring side, failed to hit a single six during their innings and a youthful tail was unable to bail out the top order, with the final five wickets falling for only 38.

Mitchell also picked up two late wickets as the home side’s innings ended 29 balls early.

Worcestershire, who lost at the semi-final stage a year ago, now have eight points from six matches, whilst Notts have moved on to seven, from the same number of matches.