Nottinghamshire, who had not managed to survive the zonal rounds in Twenty20 cricket before this season, made sure of their place when the finals return to Trent Bridge next month with an emphatic victory last night in front of the largest crowd for a domestic fixture here in more than 30 years.
The attendance of about 12,000 has not been rivalled since Nottinghamshire lost a Gillette Cup quarter-final against Derbyshire in 1975. The outcome was happier for the home support this time. Indeed, it was never in doubt after Stephen Fleming's team blasted 213 for 6 off their 20 overs.
The South African all-rounder Lance Klusener made an unbeaten 72 off 52 balls - his highest in this format - but Northamptonshire could muster only 150 for 6 in the face of disciplined bowling by the home side.
Nottinghamshire won the toss but Northamptonshire's plan to pin down the home side crumbled immediately as Matt Nicholson and Ben Phillips each conceded two boundaries in their opening overs.
Stephen Fleming then blasted Sourav Ganguly for three sixes before an attempt at a fourth saw him caught at wide mid-on but his departure only heralded the most destructive passage of the innings as Samit Patel and David Hussey combined in a partnership that added 121 off 56 balls.
Hussey's record in Twenty20 cricket before this season had been modest, the Australian scoring 172 runs in 13 innings. This year he has 315 from eight. At the height of his alliance with Patel he hit five sixes in three overs, damaging the figures of spinners Andrew White and Jason Brown with two off each, then smashing another against Phillips before being comically bowled stepping outside the line to Klusener, having scored 71 off only 34 balls.
Patel, who hit sixes off Klusener, Ganguly, Brown and Phillips, reached 65 off 38 balls before he was run out. Chris Read's pulled six off Nicholson ensured Nottinghamshire's total would be their highest in the four years of this format.
Northamptonshire needed to exceed their biggest total this season by some distance, although they have twice topped 200 and made 224 against Gloucestershire two years ago. But they were stifled by a miserly Sidebottom, who removed Ganguly early and conceded only three in his first two overs.
There was a moment of painful farce when Riki Wessels, forgetting he was batting with a runner, ran himself out and had to be helped off the field in some discomfort. Klusener's five sixes were of no consolation.Reuse content