Paul Nixon's retirement from cricket has turned into a farewell tour after Leicestershire beat Somerset in the Friends Provident Twenty20 final to earn the chance to qualify for the Champions League tournament in India next month.
The 40-year-old former England wicketkeeper announced at the end of July that he was calling time on his 24-year playing career and that Leicestershire's T20 quarter-final against Kent on 6 August would be his last competitive match, at least at Grace Road.
But the Foxes beat Kent to reach Saturday's finals day and despite bat-waving valedictory exits in front of a 24,000 crowd after he was out in both the semi-final and final, Nixon confirmed that he plans to play in the six-team pre-Champions League qualifying competition in Hyderabad next month.
"I'll be there, 100 per cent," Nixon said. "My passport has nearly run out but that will be my first job on Monday morning. It will be a fantastic experience I would not want to miss. I've always enjoyed India and have been very lucky to go there on an A tour as well as playing in the Indian Cricket League. It is a great country and what's more I think the pitches will suit our bowlers."
Leicestershire will meet Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday 20 September and Sri Lankan side Ruhuna Rhinos the following day in the round-robin qualifying tournament, which features two groups of three teams.
Somerset, who also earned a trip to Hyderabad by reaching Saturday's final, are due to face Auckland Aces on 20 September and Kolkata Knight Riders 24 hours later. All matches will be played at the Rajiv Ghandi Stadium.
The winner of each group plus the best runner-up will join the 10-team Champions League proper, which begins on 23 September and culminates in the final on 9 October in Chennai. The English counties were denied direct entry after last season's dispute over scheduling, which led to England being unrepresented.
This year's domestic programme has been compressed to avoid a repeat but Somerset could still face a logistical nightmare. They are favourites to reach the final of the Clydesdale Bank 40 at Lord's, for which the reserve day (in case of rain) is Sunday 18 September – two days before their opening match in India.
They could also find themselves with no senior wicketkeeper to take to India should Craig Kieswetter and Jos Buttler – both named in England's T20 squad to face India at Old Trafford on Wednesday – be picked for England's two T20 matches against West Indies on 23 and 25 September.
"We will have to talk to the ECB about how it is going to work out," the Somerset captain, Marcus Trescothick, said, confirming that he will not take part because of his travel-related anxiety disorder.
Nearly men Somerset, who were runners-up in all three domestic competitions last year, suffered the heartbreak of finishing runners-up for the third year in a row after Will Jefferson scored 35 and Abdul Razzaq 33 in a Foxes total 145 for six before some superb bowling from part-time leg-spinner Josh Cobb (four for 22) helped restrict Trescothick's team to 127 for nine, substitute fielder Matthew Boyce holding four catches on the boundary and Nixon a special one behind the stumps, diving full length to his right, as big-hitting Kieron Pollard was out for one.
Both semi-finals were settled by super over tie-breaks – never before needed in England – before Leicestershire made nonsense of a disastrous season in four-day cricket by becoming the first team to be T20 champions three times.