Simon Harmer guides Essex to last-ball T20 Blast title win over Worcestershire

The Guardian

The Guardian

Author 2019-09-21 23:26:37

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With two star names on show who on Friday had been adversely affected by England’s central contract announcement, there was a strong chance Moeen Ali or Alex Hales would take the finals day headlines. Instead, it was the excellent off-spinner Simon Harmer’s day as he led Essex to their maiden Vitality Blast title with a combined total of seven wickets across two games and hitting the winning runs as they beat the defending champions, Worcestershire, in a thrilling final by four wickets off the last ball.

T20 Blast Finals Day: Essex beat Worcestershire in thrilling final – live!

Harmer, an imposing South African, has been at the heart of Essex’s success in both white ball cricket and red this season. From Monday, they will aim to become the first team to secure the Blast and County Championship double when they face second-placed Somerset at Taunton. They hold a 12-point lead. In that competition, he has 78 wickets this summer. No other bowler has 70.

Here, in the final, the Eagles beat the Rapids on an Edgbaston turner, with the 30-year-old T20 captain claiming three for 15 from four overs in the evening final, restricting the Rapids to a 145 for nine total. He then came to the crease at 129 for six with 17 needed off eight balls and struck 18 off seven, including a critical boundary with a theoretical six needed off two balls; a tie would also suffice and the last ball went through the field.

In the afternoon semi-final, Harmer, a man with hands so big he could probably spin a basketball, returned a career best four for 19 in a routine victory over Derbyshire. His combined figures of seven for 35 represents a finals day record. Surprisingly, he had struck only 10 times in the 2019 Blast leading into the day. Last week, he had floated the idea of qualifying to play for England.

A pitch used for all three games gripped more as the day went on. Harmer took two wickets in two balls twice and got his opposite number Moeen caught and bowled for 32 in the final as Worcestershire slipped from 61 for one in the eighth over to 127 for seven in the 18th.

Moeen then returned two for 22 to restrict Essex to 107 for five after 15 overs of the chase. But Harmer, with help from Ravi Bopara (36 not out off 22 balls) sealed the crown.

In the first semi-final, Worcester had secured the sort of breathtaking victory which led many to think: “Their name is staying on this trophy.”

It was also a new low in a summer which has seen Nottinghamshire relegated from Division One of the Championship without a win from 13 games so far.

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Ali was named man of the match for a brisk 21 off nine balls and one for 13 from four miserly overs of off-spin in defence of their 147 for nine. But their heroes were the seamers Pat Brown and Wayne Parnell as they defended 11 off the last two overs with eight wickets remaining and seven off the last with five in hand.

Timing the ball on a tacky pitch was a problem for both sides, but how Notts lost it nobody knows. Ben Duckett was set and closing in on his 50, a milestone he failed to achieve by one run. With two needed off the last ball and the wicketkeeper, Ben Cox, stood up to the stumps, he swung wildly at Parnell and missed. Hales had impressed with 52, but he fell caught behind to Ali as Notts slipped from 100 for one in the 14th over.

Essex then eased passed finals day debutants Derbyshire, defending their 160 for five on an increasingly spin-friendly surface. Derby fell from 19 without loss to 91 for eight. Harmer bowled Billy Godleman, Leus du Plooy and Anuj Dal with perfect off-spinning deliveries. The left-arm spinner Aron Nijjar chipped in with a career best three-for in his first appearance of 2019 as the Falcons were bowled out for 126.

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