Words by Alex Smith, ECB Reporters Network
Hampshire Hawks won the Vitality Blast for the third time after a clutch bowling performance saw them defend 152 by one run against Lancashire Lightning.
Ben McDermott struck 62 as the Hawks clawed their way to a seemingly below par score, with leg spinner Matt Parkinson claiming an outstanding 4-25.
But a wonderful bowling display including Liam Dawson’s two for 23, James Fuller’s 2-19, Mason Crane’s 1-19 culminated in Nathan Ellis defending 11 in the final over.
There was incredible drama in the final over as Hampshire celebrated victory not once but twice after a no ball was spotted off the final ball.
It maintains Hampshire’s record of winning every Blast final they have been in after beating Somerset in 2010 and Yorkshire in 2012.
As with the semi-final earlier in the day, James Vince won the toss and chose the tried and tested method of batting first.
Again, like the victory over Somerset, the Hawks lost two wickets in the powerplay. This time, Vince was bowled by Richard Gleeson to end the tournament as its top scorer with 678 runs, with only his 710 runs in the 2015 edition bettered by anyone. And then Tom Prest – who had earlier been the youngest player to score a Finals Day fifty – top edged to deep square.
McDermott produced the firepower. He had swept the last ball of the first over to the boundary, before a straight drive and a muscled shot over cover. Two clean strikes over wide long on gave him a pair of sixes and helped the Hawks up to 48-2 in the powerplay.
He craned a flick into the Hollies Stand and brought up his fifth fifty-plus score of the campaign by thrashing through cover in 32 balls.
The problem was he had lost Joe Weatherley and the promoted Liam Dawson – the former top-edging a sweep and the latter chipping to long on – and the wickets sadly kept coming without meaningful partnerships in-between.
McDermott was bowled by a skiddy Parkinson delivery, James Fuller hit a straight six then swung to cover and Nathan Ellis picked out long on to leave the Hawks 111-7.
Ross Whiteley put away his innate attacking style to push ones and twos in the gaps but mistimed to cover when on 22.
Chris Wood was intent on making Hampshire could get to as high as score as possible with selfless running with Whiteley and Mason Crane. He allowed himself one big swing to ping into the crowd behind long on.
Wickets were needed to give Hampshire hope of winning the title. Wood obliged with the fourth ball, although the scalp was mainly down to Prest’s unbelievable run-in from the square boundary to dive and catch a dipping ball to see off Phil Salt.
Steven Croft allowed Lightning to bounce back from the early wicket with four successive fours in an over worth 19 as they reached 60-1 in the powerplay.
While Lancashire were dominating there was an element of bad luck as seemingly countless balls sailed just wide or narrowly over fielders.
That bad luck dissipated when McDermott caught Croft in between his pads off Crane and then quickly returned next ball. McDermott was convinced he had caught Dane Vilas but despite Vince using his review and a tiny murmur on the DRS it was adjudged not out.
Keaton Jennings slogged Dawson to sub fielder Scott Currie at wide long off and just as Vilas looked set he drove straight to Vince at cover.
The Hawks continued to build pressure as Tim David was plumb lbw to Fuller as the 16th over went for only two runs before a three run over from Ellis took the equation down to 30 from 18 balls.
Fuller had Danny Lamb caught at mid-off before Vince ran out Luke Wells to give Lancashire a final over target of 11 to win.
Ellis went one-two-one before McDermott ran out Luke Wood attempting to pinch a bye. Hampshire thought they had won it when Ellis yorked Gleeson off the final ball with five needed. Fireworks went off and the Hawks celebrated, only for the TV umpire to spot a no ball.
With three now required, Ellis once again beat Gleeson and Hampshire could safely start the party.