Friends Life t20 Finals Day, Edgbaston
Final: Leicestershire (145-6) beat Somerset (127-9) by 18 runs
Leicestershire gave wicketkeeper Paul Nixon a fairytale ending to his county career by lifting their first trophy since they won this competition in 2006.
A canny team performance proved too much for Somerset who collected their fourth runners-up prize in 12 months in the only match of finals day to be completed without interruptions from the weather.
Leicestershire’s total appeared modest but they defended it superbly on a pitch that got slower and took increasing spin as the day progressed.
Claude Henderson and Josh Cobb throttled Somerset’s reply just as Murali Kartik and Arul Suppiah had Leicestershire’s own innings.
Cobb took four for 22, all his wickets of them taken at deep midwicket by Matt Boyce in a remarkable appearance as a substitute for Will Jefferson. Last season Boyce won a man-of-the-match award as a substitute at Edgbaston when he ran out three Warwickshire batsmen.
His contributions here will be anonymous in the scorecard but his well-judged catches knocked the stuffing out of Somerset.
Nixon’s farewell act in competitive cricket in England was a stunning right-handed diving catch to account for Somerset dangerman Kieron Pollard off Wayne White. Somerset needed something special from the West Indies T20 hired gun after Marcus Trescothick and Craig Kieswetter both got starts but then sold their wickets cheaply.
Leicestershire’s win was their third in this competition and they belied their status at the start of the day as rank outsiders by playing with a spirit and direction that Somerset could not match.
Though Leicestershire have been hapless in County Championship and Clydesdale Bank 40 cricket this season they have been a transformed in the Twenty20 competition and they were the only non-Test match county to progress to the knock-out stages from a tough North Group.
Somerset could have been forgiven for thinking that they had the match won at the half way stage after they restricted Leicestershire to just 67 runs in the second half of their innings and just two boundaries in the last six overs.
But Jefferson, the hero of their semi-final win over Lancashire, and Abdul Razzaq were patient in compiling 70 in nine overs, a partnership that ultimately proved to be a match-shaping one.
Somerset’s status as 2-1 favourites at the start of the day showed what the bookmakers know about cricket and they crumpled under the burden of expectation and the accurate off-spin of Cobb whose figures were the second best in a Twenty20 Cup final.
Both teams will now take part in next month’s Champions League qualifier in Hyderabad but are likely to be below full strength.
Somerset will be without Kartik and Pollard, who will play for IPL franchise sides in the tournament instead, plus Kieswetter and Jos Buttler who are likely to be required for England’s T20 internationals against the West Indies at The Oval. Trescothick will also miss out because of his reluctance to travel abroad.
Leicestershire will have Henderson available, even though he is also eligible to play for the Cape Cobras, but there are doubts over the availability of Abdul Razzaq and Andrew McDonald because of their domestic commitments in Pakistan and Australia.
Catch of the match: Paul Nixon’s stunning one-handed effort diving far to his right to snaffle Kieron Pollard’s thick edge off Wayne White. Something to show the grandchildren in his retirement.
Stop of the match: James Hildreth’s one-handed effort full length at deep backward square which turned a certain boundary from Will Jefferson into a single.
Who took that catch?: Four catches for Matt Boyce but they will go down in history as c Sub.
Thanks for the memories: Paul Nixon’s farewell innings in a competitive match in England. Leicestershire’s former England wicketkeeper departed to warm applause from a 20,000 crowd.
Double triumph: Leicestershire also won the mascot race with Charlie Fox, who outpaced Sid the Shark from Sussex in the last 50 yards.
*Paul Bolton covers Midlands county cricket for thecricketer.com