Three weeks after the disappointment of losing a one-sided Friends Provident Trophy final to Hampshire, Sussex won the Twenty20 Cup last night on their second visit to Finals Day, defeating Somerset by 63 runs.
Astutely captained by Michael Yardy, the Sharks were always in control of the final after scoring 172 for 7. Somerset, who stuck with their field-first strategy after winning the toss, subsided in the chase from 51 for 1 in the sixth over to be all out for 109 in 17.2 overs. "It was a great all-round effort from everyone and makes up for losing the Friends Provident final," Yardy said. "We learned a lot from that experience and it served us well today."
Somerset, who are renowned for the strength of their batting, would have fancied themselves despite facing such a tall order on a slow pitch. Marcus Trescothick, at the top of his form, reached 33 from only 15 deliveries, including three sixes. But he was caught on the cover boundary by an ice-cool Rory Hamilton-Brown as he tried to hit a second consecutive six off James Kirtley and Somerset were thereafter never able to keep up with the pace they needed to maintain, despite a brief flurry of runs from Peter Trego.
Much credit is due to Yardy, bowling orthodox slow left-arm, and Will Beer, the 20-year-old leg-spinner, both of whom bowled superbly under pressure to restrict Somerset to 24 runs in six overs after the end of the power play, forcing Justin Langer's side to chase the game in a way that was always liable to bring mistakes.
Beer, who has been given guidance by Shane Warne's guru, Terry Jenner, looked a good prospect, claiming the crucial wickets of James Hildreth and Craig Kieswetter while conceding only 10 runs in his first three overs.
"Credit to Sussex, they played really well," Langer said. "I don't regret deciding to field first because the strategy has worked in getting us this far. But Sussex were excellent."
Sussex, who suffered a blow in the second over when they lost their semi-final hero, Murray Goodwin, for just seven, built their innings instead around a 26-ball 59 from the West Indian Dwayne Smith, although they will not have the power of his hitting at their disposal in the Champions League, where Deccan Chargers will have first call.
Smith, wielding the long-handled, heavy-bladed Mongoose bat, struck the first six of the innings off Max Waller, another young leg-spinner, in the 10th over and drove his second over the top against Ben Phillips, launching an assault that yielded 49 runs in the space of 16 deliveries.
But after being hit for 6-4-4 in consecutive balls it was 21-year-old Waller who had the last laugh as Smith stepped out of his crease to reverse-sweep, missed and was stumped.
Smith had provided the substance to which Chris Nash and Yasir Arafat added useful late runs and though the last five overs put on a relatively modest 46, Sussex's 172 always looked a challenging total.
Both sides qualify for the Champions League and Trescothick will have to decide if he can travel to India with Somerset, given that his stress-related health issues have been at their worst when he has been required to play abroad, leaving his family at home.
Last week he suggested he might go to the Champions League if his family could accompany him, mooting the idea of renting a house for the duration of the tournament, which will be played at three venues – in Delhi, Hyderabad and Bangalore.
The English teams will be placed in Group A, which includes Deccan Chargers and Trinidad & Tobago, and Group B, alongside New South Wales and the Eagles from South Africa. The group matches begin on 8 October, with eight of the 12 starters going on to a second group phase.
The £3.2 million prize pool for the Champions League, with about £1 million going to the winning team, makes the £80,000 picked up by last night's winners seem like small change. The English game has been made to feel like a poor relation to the Indian Premier League, whose chairman Lalit Modi is also the man behind the Champions League. Hasty plans drawn up for a second English Twenty20 competition next season, one meant to rival the IPL, had to be shelved due to the economic downturn and the ill-fated involvement with the Texan financier Sir Allen Stanford, who has since been arrested on fraud charges.
Attempting to keep up is futile. But that does not mean that the England and Wales Cricket Board, inventors of this short format, cannot bask in their own success story, smaller though it might be. The crowd here revelled in the carefree family atmosphere, embracing the corniness of its wild-west theme and the mascots' derby.
And they will do so for many years to come, so long as the ECB keep a sense of proportion, preserving Twenty20 cricket as something to be anticipated and savoured, rather than trying to stage it every week.Reuse content