Vitality Blast - 1 October 2020
Gloucestershire won by 7 wickets
Venue: Bristol County Ground
Gloucestershire v Northants Steelbacks - Quarter-Final
Gloucesteshire 114/3 beat Northamptonshire Steelbacks 113 by seven wickets at the Bristol County Ground
Gloucestershire romped to their first T20 Finals Day since 2007 with a seven-wicket Vitality Blast quarter-final annihilation of Northamptonshire Steelbacks at the Bristol County Ground.
The visitors could post only 113 all out after winning the toss, Tom Taylor top-scoring with 27. Benny Howell claimed three for 16 and Ryan Higgins three for 24.
In reply, Gloucestershire breezed to 114 for three with more than eight overs to spare, Chris Dent leading the way with 40 and Ian Cockbain contributing an unbeaten 30.
It is hard to imagine a more emphatic victory and the West country side, who have now won eight of their last nine Blast games, need fear no one in Saturday’s Finals at Edgbaston.
There were two wickets each for David Payne and Graeme van Buuren as Gloucestershire produced a T20 masterclass in supporting skilful bowling with immaculate fielding on a sunny, but crisp October afternoon.
They were all over the Northants batsmen from the opening over of the game, which saw Paul Stirling caught at mid-wicket off Payne’s fifth delivery without scoring.
Only two boundaries were scored in the first six-over power-play, which also saw Richard Levi depart for 14, bowled by left-arm spinner van Buuren, and ended with Northants 29 for two.
Tom Smith and Howell then applied the mid-innings squeeze on the batsmen, which has become Gloucestershire’s trademark. Josh Cobb was bowled aiming a big hit off Howell, who alse sent back Adam Rossington, caught of a skyer at mid-wicket.
At the midway point for their innings, Northants were becalmed on 53 for four. Smith finished his four overs, having conceded just 24 runs.
Rob Keogh became Howell’s third victim and van Buuren clean bowled Saif Zaib. When Luke Procter, on 18, drove a catch to cover off Higgins it was 80 for seven.
Taylor at last cleared the ropes with two defiant sixes off Higgins, who claimed two of the last three wickets as the Steelbacks’ sorry innings, which ended in the final over, featured only 5 fours.
That didn’t deter Gloucestershire opener Miles Hammond, who reverse swept a six off only the second delivery of his side’s reply, bowled by Cobb.
As if contemptuous of the Northants total, Hammond and Dent wasted no time going on the attack and took the score to 30 after three overs, 13 coming from the third, bowled by Taylor.
The pair had put together a stand of 48 in only 4.3 overs when Nathan Buck had Hammond caught at mid-off, having struck 20 off 10 balls.
By then Dent was already on 28, having cleared the ropes off Buck, and the outcome was all but settled.
After six overs the scoreboard read 59 for one, with only 55 needed. Dent fell with the total on 74, caught behind off White. having faced 25 balls and hit 6 fours and a six.
It made no difference to Gloucestershire’s approach. James Bracey fell cheaply to White, but Cockbain is among the leading run-scorers in the competition and runs were soon flowing from his bat again.
The 33-year-old Merseysider has never looked in better form than this season and scored his runs off 20 balls, with 4 fours.
Higgins finished the game with four successive boundaries off White as Gloucestershire reached their target in just 11.5 overs.
Gloucestershire all-rounder Benny Howell said: "That's the stuff dreams are made of. The team were right up for it from ball one and determined that the club should reach Finals Day for the first time in 13 years.
"My bowling feels back to where it was before my injury problems and hopefully I can keep things going on Saturday. We will go to Edgbaston fearing no one because we are playing some fantastic T20 cricket.
'We are over the moon to be involved in Finals Day, but we are going there to win. We will aim to play with freedom, as we have done since the start of the competition, and see where it takes us."