With just a final between Essex and Somerset to wait for, here’s a recap of the best games that graced the group stage of the Bob Willis Trophy.
Leicestershire v Lancashire
The opening round of the Bob Willis Trophy threw up some remarkable matches, but this probably topped the lot. Last year both sides had finished at opposite ends of the Division Two table, but it was bottom-placed Leicestershire who were winners on this occasion.
Lancashire put up 322 after choosing to bat first, but Leicestershire responded well with a total of 409 as Ben Slater, on loan from Nottinghamshire, hit 172 and captain Colin Ackermann added 94.
Lancashire began the final day three wickets down and with a lead of just nine runs, but a fighting defensive effort from Steven Croft (52 not out from 185 balls) meant Leicestershire needed 150 with just 17 overs left in the game. Ackermann starred once more with an unbeaten 73 from 41 balls as the target was reached inside 16 overs.
Nottinghamshire v Derbyshire
Another cracker from the start of August. Notts had a 95-run lead after both sides’ first innings and half-centuries from Haseeb Hameed and Samit Patel saw Derbyshire handed a chase of 365. Billy Godleman’s 86 at the top of the order set the platform, but the hero on the final day was Fynn Hudson-Prentice.
With an unbeaten 91 from 169 balls, Hudson-Prentice navigated the chase from No.7, and took the match down to the wire. Five runs were needed from the last over of the day, with a dot followed by three singles. Michael Cohen was able to take two from the penultimate ball, sealing Derbyshire’s highest successful run chase against another first-class county.
Essex v Kent
The holders of the County Championship were very much second-place to Kent at half time in this encounter, having conceded an 89-run lead. And with Kent 65-3, Essex needed their star off-spinner to stand up. Simon Harmer obliged, dismissing Heno Kuhn and then Darren Stevens on his way to a four-for. Kent were bowled out for 112, leaving a target of 202.
Alastair Cook, batting at No.3 after Jamie Porter fulfilled nightwatchman duties, hit 66, but Ivan Thomas took two wickets in two balls to leave Essex in serious trouble at 171-8. Wicketkeeper Adam Wheater and Sam Cook combined to drag Essex over the line, though, setting the ball rolling for the club’s run to the final.
Surrey v Kent
Surrey looked rejuvenated with the return of England pair Ben Foakes and Sam Curran into their line-up against Kent at The Oval. Curran took three wickets as Kent put up 342 in their first innings, while Foakes’ 118 kept Surrey afloat in an innings total of 278.
Curran then took 4-39 as Kent subsided for 127, although it was Rikki Clarke who ran through half of the top six on his way to figures of 5-20. Set 192 to win, the evergreen Darren Stevens disrupted Surrey’s chase, prompting three quick dismissals to leave Surrey 20-4.
Laurie Evans launched a counterattack alongside Foakes, and while Stevens dismissed the former for 42, Foakes kept Surrey’s hopes alive with a half-century and was at the crease with 28 required and two wickets in hand. Harry Podmore provided the breakthrough, though, dismissing the England wicketkeeper before Matt Milnes secured victory by bowling Matt Dunn.
Middlesex v Sussex
Sussex held a 90-run lead after both sides had batted at Radlett, but Middlesex’s seam attack kickstarted the comeback: the old-timer Tim Murtagh reduced Sussex to 4-3 and Miguel Cummins made it 4-4 shortly after. Delray Rawlins (33) and Ben Brown (45) fought back, but Middlesex were left with a very gettable target of 193.
The key problem for the Seaxes was the presence of Ollie Robinson, the right-arm quick ripping out the top order. At 130-5, Sussex were firmly in the contest, but Martin Andersson and John Simpson ensured the sixth wicket-stand was never breached.
Somerset v Worcestershire
Heading into the final round of fixtures, Somerset topped the Central Group with 76 points, with Worcestershire trailing them by just six – a place in the final was the ultimate prize. After Somerset put up 251 in their first innings, Somerset’s in-form seam attack dismissed Worcestershire for 200.
But Worcestershire’s own attack fought back well; the only thing they couldn’t do was displace Somerset’s 20-year-old left-handed opener Tom Lammonby, who carried his bat for a crucial 107 off 220 balls in a final total of 193.
Craig Overton, Josh Davey, Lewis Gregory and Jack Brooks all went to work once more to wrap up a 60-run win and seal Somerset’s place in the final of the competition.