The only real excitement that the quarter-finals of the
Twenty20 Cup in England
exhibited was off the field, rather than on it. And the generated thrill was due to
the cancelling of a cricket match, due to suspicions about the legality of a
player’s right to play for one of the counties. Clearly, the matches that
actually got played had failed to live up to their billing.
From all the three matches that did get played, the most
exciting was the third quarter-final between Middlesex and Lancashire
that was the Oval hosted. The former won the toss and decided to bat first on a
wicket that probably swung a bit, and soon found themselves at 2/2 and 21/4 and
in a lot of trouble. It was here that the duo of Eoin Morgan and Dawid Malan
got together and pulled Middlesex out of the quagmire; adding 80 runs. But the
real fireworks came in at the fall of Morgan’s wicket, as Malan pulled, hooked,
cut and drove with panache to get to his first T20 hundred, coming off only 54
deliveries. The score of 176 was his team got to, something not totally
impossible to chase down, but reasonably difficult in a knock-out game.
However, the start that Lancashire
got was something they could have done without. Lou Vincent and G. Cross departed
early, but the biggest scalp was that of Stuart Law – their skipper – who
departed for only 11. Lancashire was at 11/3 at this
stage. The rest of the batting did try their level best, especially, on the
back of a fighting fifty by Andrew Flintoff, but in the end, some superb
bowling by Murali Kartik saw Middlesex through to the semi-finals by 12 runs.
Incidentally, Flintoff, who is recuperating from his injury
bowled all the four stipulated overs, conceding only 17 runs and picking up
three scalps! Clearly, the signs are good for England.
Essex played Northamptonshire at Chelmsford
and had no difficulty in disposing them off the latter. Winning the toss and
bating first, none of the Essex batsmen crossed fifties,
yet they managed to pile on a 192/9 in the twenty overs; a good enough total in
a pressure, knock-out. This was amply helped by Ravindra Bopara’s 26-ball 47
and a late order flourish by Graham Napier, who hit out 40 runs in only twenty
deliveries. Northampton’s target
was reduced to 175 in 18 overs due to rain during the innings break, but that
did nothing to prop up their spirits. The start was as abysmal as it could get,
as Napier continued his good form with the ball. He broke the back of the team
by picking up 4/10 in his four overs, and by the time Nicky Boje scored 43-ball
58, it was too late and all over bar the shouting.
Essex had won by 59 runs by the
Duckworth-Lewis formula, and Graham Napier was the Player-of-the-Match
for his superlative all-round effort. Graham Napier now appears to have made a real claim for inclusion in the England Twenty20 side, and with the Million dollar match looming he must be rightly pleased with his efforts in recent weeks.
In the 4th quarter-final that got spilled over to
the reserve day due to heavy rains, Kent
faced up to Warwickshire. And for the third time in a row, the team that had
batted first moved on to the semi-final stage of the tournament. Darren Stevens’
brilliant hitting saw him get to 69 off just 32 deliveries, but his team could
only struggle up to 175/6 in twenty overs; clearly 20 runs adrift of their
expectations. The Warwickshire reply was as feeble as it could get. Wickets
kept falling at regular intervals, with the highest total been that of Ant
Botha’s 35. By that time, the match was done and dusted after Yasir Arafat had
picked up three in his allotted quota of four overs, conceding 29 runs.
Kent had triumphed by 42 runs.
As mentioned earlier, the biggest piece of action came in
the Yorkshire-Durham match that first got postponed and then ended in Yorkshire’s
disqualification from the tournament. This was because Yorkshire
had earlier fielded an ineligible player, Azeem Rafiq, who had not been
officially registered as a first class player. This meant that only minutes
before the start of the game, the miffed spectators were informed of the
decision of the postponement. It was finally decided that Yorkshire
would be expelled from the tournament, and their points would be awarded to
Nottinghamshire, who now face up to Durham.
More on the Durham-Nottinghamshire match later…