Pinch me.

Note: fear there are cock-ups in here, following failed updates. Blaming bad wifi & over-heating devices. Forgive me if I don’t straighten them all out – busy weekend with family stuff ongoing. Plus anarchy & madness very much the nature of the event.

Go on, pinch me: I’m here again. Edgbaston Media Centre, the incomparable perch thrust out and up towards that extraordinary, vivid cityscape. And again it’s sensational sunshine, that’s just how this gig *seems to be*, even during the previous, deep Autumn slot. Today we are burning or glowing whilst smiling. Or they are, the assembled lifeguards and clowns and troubadours; burning, early in the day.

Twenty-four hours ago the air-con in Bristol was a brutally chilling bastion against the prevailing swelter. Today it’s reassuringly fallible. We are burning, or sweating, or likely to, alongside the monsters and monks and fleshy party-goers in the Hollies. It feels like the least we could do. I am wearing shades, indoors, ‘cos necessary. Kohler-Cadmore is bowled, by Wells, for a stirring 66.

Yes it’s a crypto-Roses Match. Yorkshire’s (almost proper) Vikings v Lancashire Lightning. The Lankies are fielding, in their soft red clobber, with Yorks 143 for 4 at 12.08 p.m. There are best part of a hundred journo’s in this gaff* and most of them have started with puns about wilting, because this really does feel like the start of the Doomsday Desertification of Dudley, or something equivalently mundane and apocalyptic.

(*Wee note. Yesterday, for the Women’s One Day International, there were about six of us).

It may not be only Edgbaston that finds a Flintstone in the crowd and plays the(ir) theme-tune to widespread, if Neanderthal dad-dancing, but the humour (in its broadest sense) here feels if not unique, then right up there. Convivial plus. Beery but generally neighbourly, like some pagan ale-tasting pageant with sport. With the stands fully locked and loaded already – 12.24 – let’s hope the delirium continues with sufficient decorum. (Fat chance).

Meanwhile the ball is being carted all over. Lamb is in on a hat-trick in the final over of the Yorkie Knock. So madness. Fraine (of Yorks) reviews, having being pouched behind after another panto-fantasy-shot: he had looked to flip it fine and behind to leg but it flew off something to the keeper’s right hand. Not out: struck pad only. The innings closes with Vikings at 204 for 7, meaning a run-rate over ten and a rollicking day in store. If I pause it’s to look for the nearest ceiling fan…

Inter-semi-final break. Light roller and Yorkshire bullocking around the joint. Blinding.

Soon enough Salt will face Drakes, bowling sharpish left-arm over: Jennings the other opener. Here’s a phrase I might not have knocked out after six balls of the Roses Match from 1478 to about 1988: eleven off the first over. Bess’s medium-pace off-spin is similarly disrespected. 19 for 0 after 2. Revis succeeds Drakes and Fraine, at Deep Square, could be in the game. Nope; can’t reach Salt’s boomer. But there’s more.

The North Walian (Salt) is sending dispatches to Beaumaris, Llanberis and everywhere in between: that is until he’s caught behind, having plundered 20 from the new bowler. An unseemly 36 scored, for the departing opener, in yaknow, ridicutime – Salt-time? Croft comes in and calmly steers one for four, towards Wrexham.

Jennings is almost playing cricket by comparison. Maybe Croft has a word. His partner rolls on his back and cuffs an 82 mph delivery over the keeper’s head. After four overs, Lightning are 57 for 1. I need some iced water, to pour into my eyeballs. Pre that psycho-medicinal intervention, let me clarify: Salt only middled about half of those shots. The hand-speed and bat quality and I suppose the Modern Cultural Imperative does the rest. Madness.

I should stop: long day. Might go eat. (The food here is almost embarrassingly fabulous. I keep wondering if they’ll throw me out, for failing to stay cool in the face of extravagance, or Impersonating a Person of Taste and Refinement). Lancs 100 for 2 in the 8th. Nom, nom.

Game brewing, at 14 overs. 48 required. Should be ver-ry achievable but pressure/intense rivalry/sweaty palms/cahuna volume may all be pertinent variables. Lancashire Lightning should play with an amount of restraint and still get a run and a half a ball, though, right? Drakes in, to test that hypothesis. Lots of fine adjustments of the field. Impatient fine adjustments, asitappens.

164 for 2 after 15, with 41 needed. Stadium comms pumping up the crowd as Lyth turns his arm from the City End. Bits and pieces from two ‘in’ batsmen – Jennings and Vilas. Criminally Lyth (right arm slow) no-balls but the free hit finds the fielder at Deep Midwicket. Then Vilas goes six/four and that may be it. 24 from 24; Cakewalk Central in the modern game. Vilas changes gloves to settle himself and see this out.

Jennings won’t be with him at the death. A tad unnecessarily, perhaps, he hoists and is easily caught, for 75 admittedly important runs. 181 for 3. Drakes will bowl the 17th.

Vilas goes through to 50. David has joined him: he chests one down but can scuttle for the one. Correction; it’s more chin/grill than chest. Medic on, briefly. Possible run-out but the throw misses. The requirement remains at one per ball as we enter the 18th over, to be bowled by Thompson.

The first delivery looks swift, and flies through. Then two on the short side, the second flashed up and over Backward Point. Width is punished square and a drop and run gets Lancs very close. Another bouncer is guided nonchalantly behind for four, leaving only four to find.

Borderline no ball (for height, from Revis) is swung out behind square and finds the fielder. Brief review shows the delivery was narrrowly kosher so David must depart, for 10. A short one again gets the treatment; cut and carved hard over cover for six. Job done with a little to spare, for Lancashire Lightning. 208 for 4 on the board as the next protagonists wander out and breathe this all in. The stands momentarily thin.

HAWKS/SOMERSET.

Hawks, then, will bat. The much-loved Vince will watch as McDermott faces Lammonby, the Somerset left-armer. There is swing, which means wide, to leg. The day is splendiferous still. Nice in-swinging yorker has Vince watchful. Decent over, conceding just the four and fired boldly around the feet. Brooks has joined with the spirit of the day by donning a medium-garish headband. He runs in from the City. Energetic; powerful, even. 83 mph. McDermott clears the front leg, sensing width, and clatters behind Point, for six. 13 for 0 after 2.

An immediate change and it’s the Ozzie Icon, Siddle. He is cuff-driven past Mid-off, for four. Blimey. The old fella hits 87mph but this is hardly a consolation as McDermott straight drives hard to the boundary. Fifteen come from the over. Chastening? A little, but *this bowler* has been there.

Encouraging signs for Hampshire as Vince creams Brooks straight: four more. It gets scary as McDermott dances down, the bowler readjusts but the ball is still smashed over Square Leg, for six. 43 for 0, off 4.

Van der Merwe makes the breakthrough as Vince miscues high, to Mid-off. Simple catch. Tom Prest joins McDermott.

Ah. Computer glitch. Could it be the heat? Can write but the updating stalled. Switching to I-pad.

Run rate for Hawks is ten per over. Rifling through the memory bank (have been here several times) this feels like a historic high, when considered alongside the previous semi-final. Finals Day scores have tended to be beneath the 200 mark, I reckon – but ask the anoraks. 100 for 2, Hampshire, as we reach the halfway.

Siddle goes again from underneath us. Rangefinder malfunction: legside full-toss. Now the bowler is practically making love to the umpire and it’s not clear why (from up here). Free hit given and another clunky over passes. 114 for 2, with the not out batters Prest, on 27 and Weatherley on 23. Eleven overs bowled and the sense that the sunshine has dialled down, a little, out there.

Roussow makes good ground to catch Weatherley, striking straight but aerial. Goldsworthy’s second wicket, in fact.

Gregory follows, from beneath the Media Centre: stalwart. Ross Whiteley has joined Prest. He connects sweetly, left-handed, with a pull behind square: a nerve-settling boundary. Brooks will shortly be dispatched in a similar vein, perhaps with more violence, finer. There is a wee break as Prest deflects onto his grill. No dramas but new helmet required.


A wild one from Gregory is smoothed towards Backward Square but the fielder is mercilessly dummied by the bounce: four. That run rate steady at 9.5 now, give or take. Green thinks he’s in business but the fielder, diving forward, can’t gather: chalk that down as a difficult chance. 150 up, for 3 down, in the 16th.

Prest gets to 50 and Whiteley takes the long handle to Green: six. We’ll be close to 200 again, here.
Or maybe not? Whiteley gets a thick outside edge to Green and it flies at catchable height square. Four down, Fuller in and 173 the Hawk’s score, with two overs remaining. Brooks has changed ends to show us Media Peeps his headband more generously. (Still looks shite). A generous lump of low full-tosses been part of The Plan, for Somerset. Brooks now goes for the wide yorker and is unlucky as a bottom edge flies through, behind.

Van der Merwe will bowl out, from the City End. Left arm slow, around. Spears a brutal one in there. Single. Prest responds with a heave for six but then falls, looking to repeat. Solid contribution of 64, off 46. Enter Dawson. Comedy run-out – off he toddles. Ellis will be the new man… and he will likely face a single ball. Or not. After endless verbals and consultations, Ellis does duly pinch a single and we are done, at 190 for 6. Competitive, if marginally below par for the day.

Banton feels like a slightly crumpled god. Fearlessly irresistible eighteen months ago, human, now. He fends Wood to leg for one to get us going. Smeed is unzipped by the left-armer (but escapes) and the bowler is furious to have been called for a wide immediately afterwards. He has less complaint for what follows: an obvious wide and a clattered six. Wheal will bowl from the City End.

Banton smashes for maximum, the universe revolves and we find ourselves at ten an over – 20 off two. (But you knew that). Then Smeed tries to pull but strikes highish on the blade and Mid-off can claim it. Ellis is racing in fluently, shirt a blaze of yellow. He is close to claiming a further scalp as the ball flies hard but just beyond Backward Point’s left hand.

Roussow has joined Banton. The left-hander clubs Wheal straight and true and big: six. 32 for 1 and a paltry 8 an over. (*Demands refund*). Scandalous miscue from Roussow flies high over first slip, infuriatingly for Wood. Direct hit though re-establishes the Cosmic Balance; great throw from Crane does for Banton. Somerset 38 for 2 after 5 – so behind the game, for now.

Talking of things Cosmic, always loved the view here; a crescent of Ents that march away into Brum Central. Hoping one day they tear up the feeble skyscrapers in town.

Roussow is aware of the drift: a mighty six. Dawson’s left arm slow is around, to Abell, then over to his partner. 50 up, in the 6th. The batters still need to raise the level a touch. Enter Fuller from the city. Roussow doesn’t get enough of him; clumps, rather, into the deep. Easy catch at Midwicket. 50 for 3. Fine ball beats Lammonby. The required run rate is 11.7, at this point.

Widescreen look. Energetic game, these days. Fielders backing up at pace, rarely still. Walking in with intent. Zoom back in: seeing about four women amongst the hundred or so in this Press Box. Possible that none of them are journo’s. It’s a tremendous space and the hospitality is peerless, in my (o-kaaaay, limited, internationally) experience.

Abell has moved to 22 and Lammonby is 9, as Fuller comes in again. (11 overs, 78 for 3). Required run rate best part of 13. Lammonby answers the call, hitting powerfully over Long-on. I can see a drone, mozzie-like and bit sinister, somehow, about 100 yards beyond the City End. Cricket-related? Could be – no idea. Abell biffs Fuller behind square: almost six.

A wave of tiredness. Abell sweeps, low, hard, flat but directly at Deep Square. Gone. Brings in Gregory but 97 for 4 and 12-plus an over needed. Steepish? Gregory strikes clean and pure for six, bringing up the 100. Ellis races (and I do mean races) in. Draws the nick. ‘Keeper not sharp enough to respond. Not a gimme but it’s not just the Bowler’s Union wants those pocketed. Cruelly, another fine edge – bottom, weirdly – gets away from the gloves (although this time, no grief applicable).

Personal: the genuinely delightful and genuinely personable Dan (The Man) Norcross seeks me out to say hello. This rare from A Big Gun… and appreciated. Ver-ry wise and engaging gentleman: will not forget that he was the first to say hi and offer a comradely brew some years ago. (Indiscretion: plenty Leading Men are waaaay tooo busy in their cliquey wee world to venture out with a welcome). Not Ar Daniel.

Meanwhile cricket. Wood bowling full and wide. Twice. Singles. Possible run-out. slick throw and backhander from the keeper. Reviewed. Brilliant work beats the dive. 135 for 5, Green gone for 9. Van der Merwe incoming. Suddenly the required rate is 18 per over, with three overs to come. Somerset need something pret-ty special.

Like Ellis’s energy. Can’t help but feel that all this fizz deserves something – and yet we know pace on the ball can often penalise the fielding side. But the sprint and gather from Ellis is quite a sight. Eleven from the over flatters the batsmen, if anything. An unlikely 43 needed, from two.

Wood is swung out to leg but the chase for two looks tight. Another heavy, flat throw lasers in and Lammonby is a yard short: gone for 34. It’s gonna be Hawks v Lancs.

Wood persists with the wide angles, with some skill. Goldsworthy steps across and is castled, comprehensively. 152 for 8. 39 needed from 7 balls, then 38 from 6.

Ellis beats Brooks then bowls him with a well-disguised slower one. Impressive. 9 down. Siddle may be a legend but he ain’t gonna defy the maths. He ain’t, in fact, gonna do anything: bowled, first-up. Fabulous finish from Ellis backed-up by sustained intensity in the field. Hampshire Hawks puff out their chests and march off. And we all get a break.

THE FINAL.

Hampshire Hawks have won the toss and elected to bat. Lancs run through the pyroclastic ‘tunnel’ and the daft dinky-car brings out the ball. And then we’re off. Vince gets two, off Hartley, as Mid-off can only parry. There’s Proper Singing, in the crowd, unprompted by high-decibel twattery from Those Smiley People. And the smoke has cleared. McDermott sweeps, with intent for four. 9 for 0.

Sharp ball from Gleeson leaves Vince *just enough* and thrashes down the stumps. Early if not premature drama, relieving us all of a potential talisman and star – so rather shocking. Vince made 5. A tight scurry to beat the throw but a fine over draws no further significant theatre. Over to Wood.

Again, the pace bowlers are in this. Outside edge beaten. Prest and McDermott a tad unconvincing: the former is tucked-up and hurried by a fiery one and has no control: caught to leg as three fielders converge. 15 for 2, off 3 overs, with Lightning crackling. Gleeson blasts through a wildish hack from McDermott then beats the attempted spooning behind. Then some response: the same batter presents the blade and firms up his wrists, pushing downtown for four. Bounce and carry to finish – no contact. 23 for 2, off 4, so early rate well below previous totals.

Wood is pinpoint accurate and full, then beating the swing outside off. Whoooaaa – one takes off, beats the keeper’s leap and screams down to the boundary. Lively stuff from Lancs.

McDermott finally collects Wood, over Long-on. Again we had that hockey-ball sound, as though it was an 80% hit, rather than the full, sweet, nutty connection. That comes with a booming on-drive to Lamb, for six more. Nerves settle a little, in the Hawks camp. 48 for 2 at powerplay completion. Run rate improved – now at a mathematically satisfying and nicely-poised 8. Hartley, from beneath us.

The heat is leaving and the Lightning’s insipid red softening yet further. Spirits are high in the Northern camp, mind – especially as Parkinson claims Weatherley, caught Croft. The leggie’s not getting any discernible grip out there, but the flight and dip are plainly a challenge. As is the pressure, which is on. 64 for 3 after 9, Hawks.

McDermott is still battling but Dawson is impatient for the counter. He can only lift Parkinson to Vilas for another regulation catch. 67 for 4 and Hampshire in some strife. Wells will follow but he is unceremoniously clouted into the Hollies: six. McDermott backs that up with a clean off-drive for four more, bringing up his half-century. Now he’s feasting: six over Long-off. A very valuable 21 from the over. Run rate back up above 8.

Parkinson does inflammatory laps of the square, pretty much, having bowled McDermott with one that kinda snuck through. The opener gone for a hard-fought 62. Hawks have two new batters at the wicket – Whiteley and Fuller – and yes, they have a job to do. 100 up as Parkinson closes out his third over: he has figures of 3 for 24 and is an early shout for MOTM. Now Lamb.

He nearly bowls Fuller but that agricultural swipe merely precedes his demise – caught off a thick outside edge, driving. 105 for 6 may be terminal. Ellis has joined Whiteley.

Wood is rushing in from the City End. Whiteley gets a lively one high on the bat but it falls short of the legside field. But unconvincing. You can see, now, as well as feel, that the heat has throttled back. And we have shadows under the lights. Hard to tell what’s likely, now, given the wickets column. Hampshire must stay close to 8 an over, you suspect(?)

Ellis has to hit and he does get most of Parkinson. *Most*. David at Long-on has all day to see it and coolly gathers. A four-fer for Parkinson and that blood-in-the-water feeling. Five overs remaining and Hawks need fifty runs – probably – but have only three wickets in hand. Can Gleeson cash in? Not entirely, but he remains economical, which may be the same thing.

That bloody drone is up there again. Has it been there all day, I wonder? Hartley is deftly cut away for four but it’s the one blow of significance. Hants on 7-plus an over: Wood charging in. The expectation can only be around 150, maximum, now.

It may be less, because Whiteley is miscuing and the fielder can retreat to make the catch. 133 for 8. Penultimate over upcoming, from Gleeson. Full bore, at Crane and Wood. Wood booms over Deep Midwicket. Fair play – six.

Lamb will see this out, from the City End. But prolonged discussion which I can shed no light on. (No sound on the screens in the Media Centre). 144 for 8 on the board – so 150 plus likely. Hasn’t been enough earlier in the day but conditions are different, as is level of intensity.

Fielders diving to the last – as per the requirement. Quiet over and we finish on 152 for 8. 88 of the 100 journo’s present are teasing out variations of ‘well it’s something to aim at’. Me, I’m saying it’s been a long day. But Hawks have something to aim at.

THE REPLY.

Salt starts like a demon – like Salt. Looks a worldie for four balls. Gone for 10, flipping one off his ankles, aerial. Croft joins Jennings. The City has marched closer, as it does, this time of night. 13 for 1 off that first over from Wood.

Wheal, those skyscrapers shuffling in behind. Ground wonderfully still 68% full. Was it Jennings who did the ‘roll over and flippit thing, earlier? (Honestly can’t remember). Well he either does it again or follows the trend. Ridiculous and six, over Fine Leg. Wood will bowl the third.

Light ver-ry different, at half-eight. But we know the pitch is true, so one argument is that Lancs have only to play in a measured way, and be mindful of that scoring rate. They know acceleration is possible because it is possible to hit through the line – guys have been doing it since brunch. Wheal comes in and Croft plays what might be shot of the day, then refines it, to penetrate the offside for successive boundaries. Appreciative applause, for rare, almost classical quality. 46 for 1, off 4. Lightning surge ahead.

Very much enjoyed Ellis’s work earlier; getting a good, close look at him now. Against Somerset he was a City End fella; now he’s underneath us. Croft reaches a little, to drive, flirting with Mid-off, but has enough of it. Four. 50 up in this fifth over. Good comeback as the batsman is beaten all ends up, driving outside the off-stick.

A smidge of cut off the pitch, for Wood. Jennings reads it. Jee-sus. The roll and flip comes out again: contact is from a horizontal body-position with the bat just presenting for a subtle glide behind. Four runs seems inadequate: (12 and out, I say). A round 60 for 1, after 6 overs. Do the math, Einstein.

Liam Dawson does get some turn, with his left arm finger-thing. Might be interesting. Likewise Crane, the leg-spinner, who gives it quite a tweak. A cluster of wickets may be called for, to get Hawks back into this. Comedy of errors won’t help, as Crane’s revs bewilder not the batter but half his fielders. A further freak but this time it’s a pro-Hants panto. Croft is in a muddle and the ball squirts behind. The keeper juggles his knees, plays the forks for twenty minutes then claims the catch. And blow me, he’s out! Bizarre one but possibly critical. Croft had 36 and if he doubled that…

We have dusk, at 8.55, or the sense of it. Dawson is again bowling slow left-arm around. Jennings clears the front pad and pushes out the drive, erroneously. Not great; the fella’s offering catching practice to Long-off. Gift accepted. After 9 overs Lancs are 79 for 3, with two new batters at the crease, the light disappearing and the Hawks (plus fans) back in the game. Runs required at a rate of 6.9 per over, give or take. In short the environment now feels like a different place, not a ten an over place. Par has changed.

Vilas is claiming four, albeit fortuitously, mis-sweeping. Then Fuller is beating him for pace. Twice. And in between Vilas edges narrowly past the keeper – a slip would’ve eaten it. Finally Vilas connects, bringing up the hundred with a six. And now Dawson is bowling out.

Vilas push-drives again but a leaping Vince at Mid-off can make the grab. Tim David must join Wells. 105 for 4 with 7 overs remaining. 49 from 42 balls. Lancashire Lightning ahead… but those Cup Final Factors manifestly in play.

Now it’s all kicking off. Wells sweeps Crane for four but is then adjudged lb. (Looked out, live). Review. Ball-tracking says ‘missing’ but it may be one of those that raises questions. Irrelevant – on we go. 112 for 4 after 14. 41 needed off 36. Daft American Anthems (for some reason).

Ellis strays – wide given. Then great running. And then awful running but safety. Heart-rates lifting with the lights. A hoist lands harmlessly, 35 needed from 30. We’re going deep.

Fuller is good and straight. Precious dot. And another. David immediately reviews an lb decision. Smacks of confidence but is it bluff? No bat. He’s gone! Still 35 required from 27 balls. One taken, to Deep Square.

Ellis again, from our end. Slower ball nurdled off the hip. One. Middle and leg yorker squeezed out square – one more. Attempted scoop fails. Another cute slower one. Lamb beaten, by a bowler too good for him. Fine over. Can Fuller back that up? ‘Sweet Caroline’ may be deflecting the tension…

Fireworks as Lamb toe-ends up and up. Caught Vince once more. Margins suddenly ver-ry tight, as Wood guides his first ball through slip. Hawks are in it, though, no question. More than that, with 23 required from two overs they have to be favourites. How did that/does that happen? 130 for 6, Lancs. Dot ball. Boundaries or bust.

Wells swings out behind square for six. MASSIVE. But not yet enough. The four next ball might help. As will the misjudgement that follows: the fielder gets nothing on a steepling (but surely straightforward?) catch. It may not matter. Vince has shattered the stumps with another brilliant throw, to run out Wells. In a blur, Ellis is in for the last over, with 11 needed. Breathless don’t cover it. Then 7 needed off 3.

A back-of-the-hander deceives Hartley and Wood is run out by the keeper, shedding his glove.

The scoreboards are having a particularly ill-timed dispute over what’s required, which tells you something about the punch-drunk nature of the contest. Lancashire – well ahead for much of the contest – *may need 5* off the last ball. Hawks seem both determined and somehow disbelieving. Whoever wins, now, will win against the grain.

Last ball. Ellis, for me, something of a Star Man today, finishes this emphatically and unequivocally by bowling… but OH NO HE DOESN’T. IT’S A NO FUCKING BALL!!
Re-call the fireworks and do that again. (And yes, throw in a free hit, too). But do it all again.

We all shake our heads and gather and wait for the fog to clear – hilariously the fireworks have smoked us all out. It’s crazy and embarrassing and may tip us into farce. The premature ejaculation of pyrotechnics melts away unhurried. The bowler must wait at his mark.

Finally, Ellis beats the batter all over again… and the keeper stumps somebody… but the other batter thinks he’s in and races for the two that *may* bring scores level and the dugout is bawling about wickets ‘not broken’. And maths don’t matter and rules don’t matter and certainty never existed – just ask those scoreboards. It’s a non-decisive denouement.

This seems more of a philosophical intrigue than a win. The umps and the players look weirdly crestfallen, as if awaiting some Further Judgement. Hawks may want to crack the shampers and get lost in man-hugs but it takes an age. And even then it seems like something potentially reversible and un-free – like a nightmare VAR review. I’m just not gonna believe that Hampshire won this thing ’til I re-read the last sentence of this blog, at 3.42am tonight, when I wake up screaming.

That sentence will need to be clarity personified so I’m going with this baby:

I think I’m a wombat but Hawks did it.

Phew. Now find me a taxi.

Good luck with that.

As you know, sagacious readers, I’m one of the Good Guys. I bore the minor inconveniences of railway disruption today, with an endearing grace. Before leaving Pembs, I bought my daughter an oat-milk mocha and a sausage roll to help see her through the lifeguarding shift and poured forty quids-worth of fuel into the car my son will use in my absence. En route to Brizzle – then Taunton – I am generously buoyed, early doors, by the good progress of the Kiwi Crickit Blokes, whom I like and rispict: I *actually want them* to either win this third Tist or at least get extended appreciation as they take Hidingley into four days (maybe). Then more cricket news comes in…

South Africa – England Women’s opponents, in the aforementioned Somerset town, and therefore protagonists in my/the cricket action of the upcoming days – make some bitterly disappointing announcements. (‘Bitterly?’ That bit melodramatic, Ricardo? No. Because just as we really do want top end competitive sport up in Yorkieland, so do we want the same, in the balmy South-West. And, specifically, we wanted Ismail).

Why? Because Shabnim Ismail is the leader of the gang, the near-haughty, self-styled Fastest (Female) Bowler on the Planet. She is quick and she is one of those electrifying presences, whether purring in or patrolling the outfield. But she can’t play – shin issue.

I was proper gutted. Ismail’s presence was one of the factors in committing my particular plums to bus, train, then Cooper Associates’ Media Centre seats (such as they are). Gutted. Felt like something in the novelty and import of a rare Test Match might have roused her, pricked at her pride. ‘Ismail in her element’, perhaps? That chance to send out a high-profile reminder.

The further news lands that Ismail’s comrade-in-seam, Ayabonga Khaka, is also out, as is Chloe Tryon, the all-rounder and vice-captain. Neither good nor conducive to our highest and most neutral aspirations, this.

There are significant changes for both sides. National icons Brunt and Shrubsole gone, for England, captain Dane van Niekerk absent for the visitors. We may yet of course get a spectacular match and an inspirational launching-off-point for both sides, where new bowling (or batting) stars emerge. In truth because of the absurd lack of Test Match cricket for all of these women we could never have known what to expect, but the late changes obliterate further anything we might term ‘an expectation’. The thoughts that follow, then, are hunches – or worse.

It’s likely that Bell will play, ahead of Wong, for England, because Keightley (the England coach) has expressed concerns about Wong’s workload. Bell strikes me as naive, still, continuing to bowl too many poor deliveries – I’m thinking leg-side wides in particular – but she does have killer balls and should get more bounce and carry than Freya Davies and Kate Cross, who should also be included.

Davies and Cross are both skilled and consistent seam bowlers with good levels of experience (except in Tests!) but both strike me as natural first-changers so the thought did occur from left-field that England might come over all bold and sling both Wong and Bell in, to open the bowling. (Doesn’t sound very England, so may not be likely but would mark The Beginning of Something, rather strikingly). Sciver will bowl – may even open(?) – and could be central in all three disciplines, such is her talent. Ecclestone is unquestionably deadly, and with newcomers coming in for South Africa (and scrambled heads a possibility) she may conceivably decide the match in a blur.

South Africa have to find a team, fast, whilst acclimatising to a slow-motion epic, in mixed British weather. Not sure how England will go – partly because none of us know who will bowl, now, for South Africa – but there is little doubt that Heather Knight leads the stronger squad. There will be panic and there will be rain. With the retirements, disruptions and potentially challenging playing conditions, I suspect the quality may be mixed: but here’s hoping a few young women really break through.

And good luck to the visitors. I mean that.

Final Curtains.

Going to be ‘liveblogging’ this baybee – i.e. updating throughout the day/night. So check in every hour or four?

 

I have no idea whether I will retain or continue to seek accreditation. (The latter is likely… but uncertain). If I do, and we continue to share our cricket psycho-cobblers, please do cuff me violently round my ample lugs, should I ever get complacent about stuff like this; the walk into and round to the front of the Edgbaston Media Centre – and that first look out.

9.30-odd, on a perfect September morn, with the Bungee Bouncee Thing springing joyfully in the background, and the ground quiet but for the daft footie and earnest netting and diligent marking-out, it’s a revelation, a privilege, a seminal, enduring pleasure: so hit me if I drift, friends – hit me.

The skyline is crisp and dry and leafy, actually. To the extent that the trees – proper woody, British, deciduous jobbers – *just may be* wading towards us. (This could be something to do with our elevated position – four storeys up – fetching or distorting the angles. Maybe I need to drop down into the stadium and get down and dirty with the punters and players?) Sold. I will.

10.07. Still deliciously pre- everything. About a thousand in the ground, some already indulging, rather guiltily: long day ahead. Nasser and Wardy and Trescothick (I think) mooching and pre-discussing the necessary telly-themes. Pods of elite athletes looking disconcertingly dweeby and uncoordinated around wilfully unhelpful footballs. Sunshine.

Lancs win the toss and will field against Worcester Rapids. Less bright. Did I mention I’m looking straight down the pitch… and I love that? Well I am. It’s fabulous.

10.47 and the first Sweet Caroline. Bumble down there miming wee snippets as the gathering crowd smile or bawl their way through. Bittafun, early-doors.

Lester opens up for Lancs. To Clarke. Then Moeen. Left arm over, quickish, fullish. Mo benefits from a poor misfield at extra – first 4. Dances down and clatters the next, straighter – 4 more. 9 from the over.

(#FirstWorldProblems; am trying to add an I’m At Edgbaston header pic on the blog: ‘s not having it).

Just me, or something slightly naff about that red, Lancs are sporting? Weirdly thin, washing-powder-ad stylee, for me. Second misfield gifts Mo another 1. Nerves.

Early change as Livingstone brings more pace, from our end. More nerves as he hoists an absolute shocker of a full-toss, which Ali dispatches. Follows that with a classical straight 6, then adds 4… three times! How much would we love it if Moeen went BIG, BIG? (Answer – a lot).

Balance slightly restored as Faulkner bowls Clarke to bring us to 37 for 1, in the 4th. Moeen’s got that soft hands and plenty of time thing going on, though – looking great.

Wow. Coach going apoplectic (I imagine) as a third misfield means four more through the covers. Conditions sensational – must be nerves distracting. 56 for 1 at the conclusion of the power play. Mooen on 38 from 17.

11.28, ground almost full. Shirtsleeves. Wonderful.

Less wonderfully, Moeen slightly chops across a straight drive to mid-off. Caught, on 41, when looking comfortable.

Immediately, Two Big Moments as D’Oliveira is run out and then Fell is stumped. From nowhere, having done very little right, Lancs are back in this as Rapids drop to 71 for 4 – inexplicably.

Parkinson gets one to turn best part of a foot, then bowls Whiteley for 4. Wow. 83 for 5 after 11.

Lovely to see a leggie really turn the erm, albino cherry. (Might copyright that). Still that sense that this has all *just happened*, though – i.e. that Rapids have been subjected to something profoundly mysterious – but credit the Lancs spinners, Khan and Parkinson, who are a genuine threat, here.

Clark, coming in with good energy, gets Mitchell lbw and Lightning are 97 for 6, in the 15th. Relatively deepish trouble, for Worcs?

Cox and Barnard growing into this but the innings has to explode, late on, you feel. 133 for 6 after 18.

Cox fires off with a lusty blow for 6 then a ver-ry cute reverse tickle for 4. Lester under pressure as the seamer is clouted for a further 6 over midwicket. Then again, more monstrously, into the same block but further up. Much jumping, clutching and hollering in the Hollies.

It’s Cox who tows the Rapids to 169 for 6 at the close: he has 55 not out. Can only feel (having seen Moeen cruise so majestically earlier) that this may be a tad light.

Longish chat with one of the Sussex backroom guys. He’s as deeply impressed with Dizzy G as the rest of us. Hugely generous; cool and wise; utterly trusting. The kind of bloke who *actually does* all the stuff other coaches talk about doing. I want Dizzy’s lot to win today.

Wood races in to Davies. Again, evidence that’s there’s something in this for the bowlers –  several inches of cut for the left arm quick. Can’t protect him from two late boundaries, mind: a decent first over yields 8.

In the 3rd, Davies is rather unnecessarily run out, following a misfield then a sharp throw. Lilley joins Livingstone and we are now 22 for 1.

Wood switches ends and is gallivanting towards us. He part paws, part chests-down a brutal drive from Lilley, and the trainer is on. Ultimately, no doubt sore, Wood continues.

The light – always sympathetic – switches back on up to 11. Mooen, from mid-off, doing lots of talking to his bowlers. And shuffling his field. It may be working because so far Lightning are non-thunderous.

The thing about T20 is you don’t write things like that. Because the very next ball gets absolutely smashed. 6. Coulda been 10. 44 for 1 after 5.

Cruel world. Young Brown *really puts it in there* for the Rapids, only for Lilley to unceremoniously (or worse – horribly) swat him past mid-off for 4. Next ball is similarly dispatched and the power play closes at 55 for 1.

Barnard has Livingstone caught at third man. Deserved that, the bowler, having defeated him the previous ball with a sly, slow one. Enter Buttler… and also Moeen, with the ball.

The talisman in blue – fifth bowler in the first 7 overs – traps Lilley in front with a ball that didn’t appear to deviate. Lots of love for Mo at the end of the over, with Lancs at 67 for 3 but now with Jennings and Buttler out there. Crucial period, surely?

I can confirm that Jennings is tall… and upright at the crease – although he gets lower or more dynamic or something as his innings develops.

Weird phase where both batsmen seem obsessed with reversing Moeen, to little effect. 78 for 3 after 10 – just behind the Rapids score – 92 needed. D’Oliveira becomes the 6th bowler for the 11th: again, some turn present. Both batsmen circumspect, so far.

OOf. Buttler scuffs-on, from Mo, for 12. With Jennings looking okaay but rather one-dimensional, the incoming Vilas may have to bring some boom. Game in the balance at 91 for 4, D’Oliveira finding his flow and more spin; enjoyable. We may owe the groundsman a pint for an excellent, supportive pitch.

Jennings accelerates. Two consecutive boundaries, off Mitchell. Still playing within himself but a prudent gear-change, I’d say.

Risky run again proves fatal. Vilas dives but goes and with Clark joining Jennings, Lightning need 10-plus per over. Should be fun, should be close.

Mo finishes with 2 for 16 off his 4 overs: which is outstanding, right? Brown will bowl the 17th. When Clark is run out, Faulkner comes in, with Buttler acting as runner: would he could swing that bat. Lancs will need 30 off the last 2.

Brown for the penultimate. Has Faulkner caught in the deep. 140 for 7 with Lester now in; swishes unconvincingly across the first.

Then the young paceman has his man, with a lovely, slower number, rolled out of the wrist. When Parkinson goes clouting skywards next ball… it feels done. Khan and Jennings must engineer 29 from Parnell’s last over.

Second ball disappears, bringing Jennings to his half-century but the next two stay on the island. It’s the Rapids’ game. Lancashire Lightning finish on 149 for 9. Bring on MAJOR FOOD, please… and the next one!

Wright and Salt will open for Sussex, facing Waller. 10 off the 1st, with Salt snaring 9 of them. The powerful-looking Taylor offers right-arm quick to follow but Salt connects to square leg – 4 more. He then steers rather loosely to mid-off and is gone, replaced by Evans, who steers Taylor neatly wide of that same fielder.

Wright takes on the incoming Overton. More than that, he carves him left and right – successive sixes. Evans is lbw then Rawlins skies one almost nowhere and Sharks are  74 for 3, with Wright on 34 off 20, come the end of the 8th. The sun is peeping then hiding just a little but as September days go… we’ll take it.

Friendly Geezer from Sussex Marketing saying they’ve inevitably received ‘some earache’ re- the controversial ticket-allocation for Finals Day: 500 seems an oddly low number. Explanation given was apparently that there was a fear that if the four clubs were allocated many more, then half the stadium may go after the semi’s. Get that but surely 1,000 or 1500 a better shout?

Meanwhile, Wright goes to 52, hauling Overton to leg. A spiteful beamer follows… which means a free hit… and a further 6 over long-on. 200-plus well and truly on, as the Sharks number 10 and captain struts into that Star-Player-In-Sumptuous-Mode phase. 141 for 3, off 13. Exciting stuff.

*Meanwhile*, chefs appear to be chasing pigs around The Hollies.

Wright may be 85 off 46 but Wiese is suddenly flying and purring, too. Smoothes Gregory into the highest tier over long-on, then drives through off. Irresistible. 220 entirely possible. Incredibly, could see more.

Wiese cushions Anderson for 1 to claim 50, then Wright is caught, booming to long-off, for a superb 92. The bowler has been going hard into the pitch, sometimes short, with two out on the on-side: three, in fact – two for cross-batted clubbing, plus a man at a long-on.

Taylor to Burgess, who wastes a few balls before being caught by an in-rushing deep midwicket with the score at 197. Archer goes for the dreaded GD and Jordan will join Wiese for Gregory, and the final over. Jordan sacrifices himself, meaning Beer will join us – appropriately. 200 up, 2 balls to come.

After an umpire review nails Wiese (run out), Sharks finish at 202 for 8 – great score, but Wright might be forgiven for thinking his lower-order colleagues underachieved by about 15. Whatever, Somerset must launch at this from pretty early on.

I watch the start of the reply from inside the Media Lounge, where you could sprawl – or do a 30 metre dash – should the urge take you.

Jimmy Anderson steals quietly past. Athers, bespectacled and studious with his broadsheet, is between me and the telly, such that he might be fearing my intense leering is for him. (Not so, Michael; I was trying to stay abreast of all things Archer and Millsy, honest). That and eating again, like a horse, like a man who remembers from last year that this is a very long day – I reiterate, a long day of privileges, mainly.

After the cheese and biccies (and 6 overs) Somerset are 45 for 3, with Hildreth on 14 and Abell on 3. (I am bloated and baggy-eyed, already – thanks for your concern).

Wiese takes the Most Embarrassing Catch Ever Ever, to eventually snaffle Hildreth’s looping edge and the Sussex Posse next to me are looking for the sign saying ‘Dreamland’. 53 for 4, Somerset.

Our friends in The Hollies are having fun, and quite right too. But they are also slinging balls onto the outfield every few minutes. Which is not that funny if you’re fielding… and wondering what’s underneath your ankles. Perhaps this is why the fella Abell clatters the ball violently into that particular stand?

85 for 4 at the halfway mark. The aforementioned Abell has just played two consecutive reverse-sweeps with two fielders placed precisely for that shot. Overthunk it, methinks.

Wiese puts down a relatively straight-forward chance when swooping like a gawky erm… gosling. My Sussex friends are telling me he’s not normally the Villager in the Field but it kinda goes on, as the poor fella bowls two very different but consecutive wides. Win or lose, he’ll be the bloke dropping his pint, later.

You feel Abell and Anderson may be a threat, and they set out, in the 13th, to prove that. The 100 comes up – 4 down. Mills is in for the next.

Archer contributes a clanger to the Somerset cause; the ball scooting beneath him to the point boundary.

The Cider-drinkers need  72 off the remaining 6 overs but Abell goes – a tad unfortunate to be run-out by a faint touch from Brigg’s fingers as the ball hurried past the bowler. That could be big.

It *could be* but Gregory, the skipper and one of the players of the tournament is in. Archer returns to greet him. The sky is somehow less deep, less full. It’s greyer.

Series of fine yorkers from Jordan: three optimistic appeals yield nothing but press home the Sharks advantage. Somerset need 20 an over from the last 3.

A slightly controversial no ball (for height) saves Gregory then offers him a free hit, off Archer but there’s no sense that the striking is remotely dynamic enough to make this close. Anderson is caught, for 48, last ball of the over, and Somerset need 50, off 2.

Jordan impressively cleans out Gregory with yet another yorker; Van der Merwe in – thankless, hopeless task.

Mills bowls the last, disturbing Overton’s off-stick third ball. Impressive but not perfect performance from Sussex yields a 35 run win. They will rest up for a bit – won’t we all – and charge in again at 6.45p.m. for a Mo versus Dizzy final. Ex-cellent.

I can now exclusively reveal that Jimmy Anderson likes a bitta sauce: was just pursuing some in the Media Lounge. Weirdly, didn’t recognise me. Congratulated him anyway, on his recent milestone.

In other news, I watched Dizzy chatting away with his guys during the break. Quietish, undemonstrative, mirrored a couple of batting strokes. No passionate urging or chest-pumping; almost as though he really trusts his team to make it happen.

Lights are on, for the final. They need to be. It’s going to be coolish, soonish, too. Luke Wood will bowl to Phil Salt. Drilled to mid-off; dot ball.

Two singles turned off the hip. Then Salt drills a beauty on the deck through extra-cover. 6 for 0. And Parnell.

Greeted by two extraordinary shots – Salt lifting him then slapping him straightish-offish for a pair of sixes. But hold… the daft bugger’s then run out, for not sliding the bat, when looking comfortably home! Great throw came in but that was village and the departing, cursing batsman knows it. A gift for the Rapids. 24 for 1 after the 3rd.

Wood changes ends. Has square leg back and a long on. Has that characteristic, slightly counterintuitive stroll back to his mark, walking wrong-side, as it were, – presumably to keep his approach straight(?) The trend for 1-over spells continues, with Parnell running in away from us.

Evans, then Wright remain undistracted: two sixes the result. 42 for 1 after 5.

Good spell, for Worcester – Barnard taking some pace off. Mo will reduce that velocity further as the dusk descends.

Evans has to respond and does: 6 over midwicket. But after 8, Sussex are at 56 for 1… and surely down by a few? Wright club-drives Brown before swinging him straight – for 4 on both occasions – before underlining the gear-change with a 6. Sharks countering, and Evans and Wright now ‘in’.

Ah. Except that Wright is OUT, having been bowled by Moeen, swinging too wildly, for 33. The lights have upped their game; they sting now, if you stare.

D’Oliveira finds some spin… but then the very middle of Rawlin’s bat – twice, for successive 6s. 93 for 2 after 11; feels more competitive.

Mitchell is in, with some slowish-medium. Have no issue with that. However I’m not sure we can forgive him his two wides, at that pace. (The second a shocker). Wood, following, is looking focused and somehow manfully quick. He sends one past Rawlins’ nose. 110 for 2, with 13 gone.

We then, dear friends, have a Technical Hitch, meaning I have to switch from ancient, inherited Mac, to medium dodgy ipad. Fingers crossed.

Things have progressed. Mo has finished with 3 for not-that-many, Evans is beyond 50 and the we’ve just had our umpteenth Umpire’s Review for a possible no ball around the waist. Sharks are 147 for 5, after 18.

Brown bowls the 19th: finishes with 0 for 15 off his 4 overs: good work. Sussex gonna have to bowl well, too but that’s their strong suit, arguably.

Parnell will slap it in there for the last. Archer carts the final delivery to the midwicket boundary, where the fielder takes an easy catch. 158 required for the win.

As we prepare to go again, take a look at the skyline. There’s barely a city there. Just us… and this stadium: magic. Archer prepares.

The lad looks interestingly disconsolate on his walk back. A decent over offers 5.

Could be dewy out there; two minor fielding errors. Mills bustles in – arms wrapped as per. Half The Hollies is doing a kind of comatose conga… at walking-pace.

Archer’s body-language is similarly low-key. The *actual bowling* is fine – 2 overs for 12 – but he has the look of a slightly moody teenager. 22 for 0 after 3.

Rapids, of course, don’t have to be that rapid. And they know that. Barely a swipe in anger, so far, and they’re still ahead of the run-rate. Moeen can afford to bring out his finest forward defence, to Jordan. He does.

Moeen does pick the slower one, mind, too – and heaves it over midwicket for 4. Follows that up with a slightly inside-out spooning over long-off and a further haul to leg. Advantage to Worcester after 5: 44 for 0 wicket.

Wiese is in to conclude the powerplay: it’s mixed, a poor ball down leg is rightly dismissed.

When Moeen thwacks Briggs high over midwicket, we approach crunchtime early, it seems. But the spinner has Clarke caught behind for 33 and when the incoming Fell drives Beer directly to extra-cover we find ourselves at 62 for 2, in the 8th. Briggs returns for the 9th.

*Things we maybe thought we might not say at The Cricket*: the Human League are going down well. Onwards.

D’Oliveira is stumped, off Briggs, for 10, but Moeen persists. Calmly easing through. I’m guessing 82% of the crowd is still with us.

From nowhere, Ali is gone – caught miscuing to long-off by a more than slightly jubilant Salt. Important, clearly, but Wiese’s fielding clanger a few balls later still hurts. A sort of intermittent, mid-range squeeze is on.

Whiteley breaks out with a powerful cuff to leg, off Beer. 104 for 4, off 14, with 54 needed: re-enter Jordan. Slower ones and yorkers – goodish. With the Big Guns back into this (Mills is next) this could be close. We want that, yes?

42 required, off 4. Sitting comfortably? (The Lads to my left aren’t: Sharks Media Posse). Archer is in.

Beautifully deft reverse from Cox finds the boundary. Then he drives for 4 over mid-off’s leap. Drama cranks up as a HUGE no-ball call goes against Whiteley. 127 for 5, meaning 31 needed off 3.

Jordan has changed ends. Dot ball. Full-toss to leg for 4. Tangle-almost-played-on thing. Scurry-through with no contact. Straight 6! *Possible misjudgement in the field(?)*  Over over… and 141 for 5 on the board.

Ultimately, The Golden Boy bottles it! Archer flings a horrendous beamer past Cox’s left ear and waaay past the keeper! The free hit is likewise dispatched. The follow-up likewise. Cox is pipping… everybody! (Gets coat). Tremendous, nerveless effort to bring his side home – as he did in the semi.

So Moeen – our Moeen – will be collecting the trophy. I can feel the universe smiling. Fabulous finish.

 

Morning after. Was too exhausted last night to properly big up a) Edgbaston and all who sail and steer in that crazy-wonderful boat – thank you for your generous hospitality b) that bloke Cox. Stunning, extended, dramatic, luxurious day of sport you gave us. Bravo!