David Willey does it all with bat and ball as Northants beat Surrey to take T20 title

Fast bowler takes hat-trick to add to pinch-hitting heroics as county dust off trophy cabinet

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The Independent Online

David Willey produced a remarkable individual performance here to allow underdogs Northamptonshire to beat Surrey and take home the FriendsLife Twenty20 title, their first one-day silverware since the 1992 NatWest Trophy.

The fast bowler, promoted to open the innings when Kyle Coetzer was withdrawn with a wrist injury, smashed a career-best 60 off 27 balls and then took a hat-trick to finish off the final in style as the Steelbacks won by 102 runs on the Duckworth-Lewis method.

Northamptonshire, who had won only three T20 matches out of their last 27 before this season, smashed 194 for 2 off just 18 overs after a stoppage for rain. After Willey had provided the early momentum, the innings was completed with an unbroken stand of 106 between the captain Alex Wakely (59 from 30 balls) and Australia's Cameron White (54 from 39).

Willey, who hit six fours and four sixes in his innings, then started Surrey's rapid demise by bowling their danger man Jason Roy for 13, running out Steve Davies with a direct hit from the long-on boundary and taking a catch on the rope to remove Azhar Mahmood as Surrey effectively lost the match in the first eight overs of their reply, slipping to 59 for 4. The 23-year-old left-arm paceman then bowled out Surrey for 92 in 13.3 overs to earn figures of 4 for 9.

He had not had to bat at all as Northants beat Essex by three wickets in the semi-finals, when Richard Levi's 35-ball 57 facilitated another flying start before White and Stephen Crook added 78 in 29 deliveries in an unbroken match-winning partnership.

Surrey, who were without their suspended skipper Gareth Batty, reached the final with a surprise four-wicket win over defending champions Hampshire.

This year's competition has been the last staged as a midsummer tournament. Next year sees the introduction of a Twenty20 league, with every county guaranteed seven home fixtures, the majority of them played on Friday evenings.

The move was designed as a way to rekindle interest in the face of declining crowds, yet 2013 has been a boom year with a record finals day turn-out of 22,500 coming on the heels of a 76 per cent surge in attendance figures in the group stage, which saw 145,000 spectators watch matches in London alone.

The England and Wales Cricket Board insist, however, that the decision to abandon the tournament format in favour of a Friday night league remains the right one.

Gordon Hollins, the ECB's managing director of professional cricket, says the change is based on the most extensive research ever conducted in cricket, involving more than 25,000 spectators and potential fans. That research showed that by far and away the biggest obstacle to repeat attendance was that the schedule was too cluttered and too condensed."

He added: "Fans prefer a competition played on a regular day of the week over a longer period. There was no ambiguity about that, it was totally clear."

Yet T20 veteran Dimitri Mascarenhas, who captained Hampshire to their fourth consecutive appearance at finals day, believes that running the competition from May until August risks turning the world's original T20 into a poor relation alongside the Indian Premier League and Australia's Big Bash.

"It will devalue the competition," he said. "You want the best overseas players possible to be involved but they are not going to come for a such a long period. When they look at what they can earn for seven weeks in the IPL, players may well look at it [the English season] as a time to rest up.

"The clubs will see it as a money-making thing and that's fine, although whether the crowds keep coming, we'll have to wait and see."

Hollins countered that spectators here are less excited by big-name stars than their counterparts in India and Australia. "Customers said that while there might be a few international players that would affect whether they came or not, fundamentally it was about a night out and a good, fun game of cricket.

"We have done more research this year and the overwhelming feedback again – from a different group of people – is that 'give us an appointment to view and we will come'.

"When you look at competitions like the IPL, the Bangladesh and Sri Lankan Premier Leagues and the Big Bash, we have been quite overt in saying this is about England and Wales. We are not going to try to replicate something else for the sake of doing that, we are going to do what our consumers wanted to have and we believe this product is tailor-made for our customer."