Leicestershire may be on course for their second wooden spoon in three years in the County Championship but they can call themselves the undisputed kings of Twenty20 after becoming the first team to be crowned champions for the third time at Edgbaston last night.
Back at the scene of the county's first triumph in 2004, Matthew Hoggard's side won by 18 runs as Somerset suffered the heartache of finishing runners-up for the third year in a row.
The man of the match was Leicestershire's 21-year-old leg-spinning opening batsman Josh Cobb, whose day got off to a terrible start when he was caught behind off the first ball bowled of the first semi-final against Lancashire, but which ended with him taking a career-best 4 for 22, having already held a key catch to remove Somerset's captain and run machine Marcus Trescothick and run out Arul Suppiah before he had faced a ball.
All four of Cobb's wickets involved boundary catches by the substitute fielder Matthew Boyce, who played in the semi-final against Lancashirebut was left out for the final. He was on the field because Will Jefferson tweaked an Achilles tendon.
Somerset must have thought there was a good chance that their luck would change after putting Leicestershire in and restricting them to 145 for 6 from their 20 overs. Left-arm spinner Murali Kartik conceded only 17 runs in his four overs after Jefferson and Adbul Razzaq had put on 70 for the third wicket.
But despite rolling out one of the strongest batting line-ups in the competition, Somerset were never able to establish any momentum on a pitch, taking spin, that Leicestershire's slow bowlers in particular exploited superbly. They collapsed after Paul Nixon took a superb diving catch to dismiss Kieron Pollard.
"I thought we had set a competitive total," a delighted Hoggard said. "We knew it was a pitch where it was hard to score off the slow bowlers and it was not going to get any better. But they have some big hitters in their team and the way our bowlers smothered them was fantastic."
Last night's winners picked up £200,000 in prize money and both finalists have an opportunity to play in next month's Twenty20 Champions League in India, although they will not automatically have a shot at the £1.55 million top prize. They must first take part in a six-team qualifying competition in Hyderabad that begins only two days after the end of the English domestic season.
A potential nightmare awaits Somerset, who could be required to play a CB40 final carry-over day at Lord's on Sunday, 18 September and their first match in Hyderabad two days later. Moreover, they will be without captain Marcus Trescothick, who no longer plays abroad because of his underlying anxiety disorder, and Pollard, who is committed to Mumbai Indians, and possibly both Jos Buttler and Craig Kieswetter, who are candidates for England's late-September T20 matches against West Indies.
Last night's finalists both won their semi-finals by the cricket equivalent of the penalty shoot-out as the English domestic game witnessed its first super over tie-breaker, immediately followed by another.
The first was triggered when Gareth Cross hit a six from seamer Wayne White's last ball to leave Lancashire on 79 for 6 from 11 overs, the Duckworth Lewis equivalent of Leicestershire's 132 for 6 from 18.
Hampshire snatched a second chance when Suppiah was run out with Somerset needing a single off Dominic Cork's last ball to reach 95 for 6 from 10 overs to beat Hampshire's 138 for 4 from 15.5 overs.
Somerset avenged last year's final defeat after their semi-final finished all square as Kieswetter and Buttler hit 16 off Hampshire's Shahid Afridi in Somerset's super over but Afridi, Jimmy Adams and James Vince could manage only five off Alfonso Thomas in reply, with Afridi – who smashed 80 off 42 balls in the match proper – caught on the midwicket boundary for four.
Leicestershire earlier defeated Lancashire after Jefferson had smashed 14 runs from the first four deliveries of veteran spinner Gary Keedy's over to beat the 13 Lancashire's Stephen Moore and Tom Smith had hit in six deliveries from Claude Handerson.
Scoreboard of the final
Somerset won toss
Abdul Razzaq c & b Pollard 33/43/5/0
J J Cobb c Pollard b Kirby 18/10/2/1
W I Jefferson lbw b Suppiah 35/37/2/2
J du Toit c Kirby b Suppiah 2/19/0/0
†P A Nixon c Pollard b Meschede 4/4/1/0
A B McDonald c Thomas b Pollard 14/18/0/0
J W A Taylor not out 18/22/1/0
W A White not out 10/5/1/0
Extras b1 lb3 w7 11
Total (for 6, 20 overs) 145
Fall 1-24 2-94 3-96 4-101 5-102 6-127.
Did not bat C W Henderson, *M J Hoggard, J K H Naik.
Bowling Kartik 4-0-14-0; Thomas 4-0-47-0; Kirby 2-0-17-1; Pollard 4-0-24-2; Suppiah 4-0-27-2; Meschede 2-0-12-1.
*M E Trescothick c Cobb b Hoggard 16/19/3/0
†C Kieswetter b McDonald 17/28/3/0
P D Trego c Sub b Cobb 35/38/5/0
J C Hildreth c Sub b Cobb 20/20/1/0
K A Pollard c Nixon b White 1/4/0/0
J C Buttler c Sub b Cobb 12/10/1/0
A V Suppiah run out 0/1/0/0
C A J Meschede c du Toit b Abdul Razzaq 9/16/0/0
A C Thomas c Sub b Cobb 7/7/0/0
M Kartik not out 7/7/0/0
S P Kirby not out 1/1/0/0
Extras lb1 w1 2
Total (for 9, 20 overs) 127
Fall 1-31 2-42 3-84 4-89 5-95 6-97 7-103 8-115 9-122.
Bowling Hoggard 3-0-17-1; Abdul Razzaq 3.2-0-26-1; Henderson 4-0-11-0; McDonald 3.4-0-32-1; Naik 1-0-10-0; Cobb 4-0-22-4; White 1-0-8-1.
Umpires R J Bailey and N A Mallender.
Leicestershire win by 18 runs.
World's leading Twentiests
Indian Premier League 2008-11:
Best strike-rate: V Sehwag 169.6 (Delhi Daredevils)
Highest batting average: S E Marsh 52.79 (Kings XI Punjab)
Most sixes: A C Gilchrist 82 (Deccan Chargers, Kings XI Punjab)
Highest score: B B McCullum 158* (Kolkata Knight Riders)
Best economy rate: R Ashwin 6.03 (Chennai Super Kings)
Best bowling average: S L Malinga 16.9 (Mumbai Indians)
Best bowling figures: Sohail Tanvir 6-14 (Rajasthan Royals)
English domestic Twenty20 2003-11:
Best strike-rate: A Symonds 219.05 (Kent Spitfires)
Highest batting average: A B McDonald 67 (Leicestershire Foxes)
Most sixes: M E Trescothick 77 (Somerset Sabres)
Highest score: G R Napier 152* (Essex Eagles)
Best economy rate: J Botha 5.64 (Northamptonshire Steelbacks)
Best bowling average: P D Collingwood 9.76 (Durham Dynamos)
Best bowling figures: A V Suppiah 6-5 (Somerset Sabres)
The Big Bash 2006-11:
Best strike-rate: A C Blizzard 163.82 (DEC Bushrangers)
Highest batting average: S E Marsh 34.43 (Retravision Warriors)
Most sixes: D J Hussey 34 (DEC Bushrangers) and D A Warner 34 (Speedblitz Blues)
Highest score: M G Dighton 111 (PFK Tasmanian Tigers)
Best economy rate: S R Clark 5.78 (Speedblitz Blues)
Best bowling average: M L Lewis 9.27 (DEC Bushrangers)
Best bowling figures: M G Dighton 6-25 (PFK Tasmanian Tigers)
Qualification: 10 innings and 20 overs
Compiled by James Charlton