Yorkshire were in their first Twenty20 finals day, Hampshire their third in a row, so there was no argument over who had the advantage of experience. Yet it was a 22-year-old left-arm seam bowler, holding his nerve when it mattered most, who clinched the trophy for the second time in three years.
With David Miller in full flow after treating a capacity Cardiff crowd to a belated taste of traditional Twenty20 hitting, Yorkshire needed 14 to win off the last over and it was down to Chris Wood to ensure that the South African, who had already hit five sixes, did not turn his explosive innings into the match-winning performance.
He got lucky when Tim Bresnan skied the first ball to cover but the batsmen crossed with the ball in the air, so Miller, who had hit 70 off 42 balls, had the strike. Yet Wood responded with three superb, full length deliveries in a row, even backing himself to bowl round the wicket to the left-handed Miller. Each resulted only in a single.
It meant 11 were needed off the last two balls, with Miller, by now shaking his head in frustration, stranded at the other end. Richard Pyrah was bowled by the first one, after which Azeem Rafiq being caught off the last was somewhat academic, but it did give Wood three wickets in the over, and career-best Twenty20 figures of 3 for 26.
"I've been practising all winter and all summer to bowl these penultimate overs and last overs in these games, trying to perfect my yorker," Wood said. "I knew that if I got it right they would not be able to hit it out of the park, so I backed myself 100 per cent."
The result spared the on-field umpires a potential controversy after Neil McKenzie, at mid-wicket, claimed a catch when Miller was on only seven, taking it at grass height as the batsman clipped a ball from Liam Dawson off his legs. Miller stood his ground and the umpires referred the decision to TV umpire Nick Cook, who could not be certain on the evidence of TV replays.
The Hampshire captain, Dimitri Mascarenhas, said: "Neil said he had caught it cleanly but when they sent it upstairs I thought it would probably not be given, because normally in those situations they give the benefit to the batsman."
Yorkshire, who had beaten Sussex in the semi-finals on the back of a superb unbeaten 68 from England's Jonny Bairstow, had been charged with scoring 151 on a slow pitch after a measured performance by Hampshire's batsmen, who have years of experience between them, even if their bowlers are relatively young.
Yorkshire looked to be out of contention when they slipped to 47 for 4 after nine overs. Critically, they had just lost Bairstow, who had been caught behind off left-arm spinner Danny Briggs – bound like him for the World Twenty20 with England next month. Briggs again produced a classy performance.
It was only when Miller found his range that they looked remotely like chasing down the target. Three sixes in one over off Sean Ervine, all in the direction of the River Taff behind the ground, set the tone. But he needed at least one solid support act, and there was none in the end.
The slow pitch supports the argument that the competition format should becrevised and the final played on a different day – or at least a different pitch. There was never much pace in this one even for the first semi-final and it played slower and lower as they day progressed.
In the circumstances, Hampshire's 150 was a decent total. By Twenty20 standards, it was not entertainment, but Hampshire knew that if they kept their heads and adopted a policy of steady accumulation they could build a total that good slow bowlers of the quality of Briggs, Liam Dawson and canny campaigners such as Mascarenhas, who played despite a torn shoulder muscle, would fancy themselves to defend.
There were only 12 boundaries – 10 fours and two sixes – in the entire innings, and never more than two in the same over, but not enough dot balls – or, for that matter, wicket balls – from Yorkshire's perspective. Hampshire built steadily around a 37-ball 43 from Jimmy Adams, who shared a stand of 48 with James Vince for the second wicket.
Vince was bowled by Moin Ashraf, who had been superb in the semi-final, getting his yorker right time after time, but was not so accurate this time, which was another factor in Hampshire's favour.
The consolation for Yorkshire is that both they and Hampshire will have the chance to play in the lucrative Champions League in South Africa in October, with a $2.5 million (£1.58 million) top prize at stake.
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