Trent Rockets 121 for 8 (Malan 19, Little 2-18) beat Manchester Originals 120 for 9 (Turner 26, Cook 4-18) by two wickets
One of the many criticisms of the 2022 edition of the men’s Hundred was the lack of close finishes. The kind which build legends and tear down legacies, or even simply give mortals a taste of nectar or soul-crushing agony. Now, in the 32nd and final game, we had it.
Trent Rockets won the Hundred, and to work out how would require starting right at the end. A chase of 121 which always felt on the verge of going off the rails had somehow stayed upright until the final five deliveries, with a seemingly unlikely 11 required for victory. Lewis Gregory, captain of the Rockets, Somerset till he dies, England once in a while, found them within three.
A miraculous flat six over square leg from a near-perfect leg-stump yorker was the surprise knife into the side of Manchester Originals. The four flicked around the corner from a next-ball full toss, then the single to take Rockets over the line, simply twisted it.
As Gregory roared like a man finally being allowed to exorcise the tension he had managed so well up to that point, Richard Gleeson fell to his knees, eyes red from the pain of knowing he was most to blame. More so through having the courage and trust to deliver that final set. His second ball could have been better, but the first was more or less exactly what he wanted. It didn’t matter what the third was.
Having been there at the end of Lancashire’s last-ball defeat in the Vitality Blast final against Hampshire, this was another demoralising moment for Gleeson – at the end of an otherwise breakthrough summer in which he’s made his England debut and earned a role as a designated reserve for the T20 World Cup. One crumb of comfort was how quickly he rose to his feet to congratulate the victors. After all, the 34-year-old is no stranger from returning from adversity.
How we got to this finish will remain a mystery, because nothing about how the match’s previous 195 deliveries suggested anything close to a high drama, high-quality finale. There was ebb and flow, which isn’t exactly what this format is supposed to be about. The scores and balls go up, then they come down, while the broadcasters assure you this is the best thing ever. By the end, they weren’t even hamming it up.
Everyone got what they wanted at the toss. Manchester Originals chose to first, which suited Trent Rockets who were going to bowl. Midway through the fifth set, with Originals reeling on 22 for three – captain Laurie Evans, wily fox Wayne Madsen and soon-to-be England’s T20 starting opener Phil Salt all seen off in the space of 23 balls – it looked like one team had it very wrong.
Perhaps cues should have been taken from the women’s game. Oval Invincibles played a tacky pitch better than Southern Brave, in part because they could plan a route to their target of 102 rather than thrash around blindly on a pitch that wasn’t conducive to an engaging spectacle. By CricViz’s metrics, this was the toughest surface for batting in the Hundred this season.
It was made that little harder by Sam Cook and Samit Patel, whose variants of seam and spin claimed four for 18 and three for 23 respectively. Cook’s were split evenly between the first 20 and final 20 deliveries. Evans was trapped lbw and Madsen bowled, before he returned at the death to remove Tom Lammonby with a leg-stump yorker and then castle Gleeson.
Patel’s work, however, kept an explosive middle-order under wraps. Tristan Stubbs was undone by a bit of bounce – a top-edged sweep to fine leg taken superbly by wicketkeeper Tom Moores as he tracked the ball towards fine leg. The long levers of Walter came and went, as a leading edge found a sprawling Dawid Malan at cover to leave Patel on a hat-trick.
The third did not come immediately, but it was perhaps the most valuable of the lot. Ashton Turner, Originals’ replacement for Andre Russell, was finding more joy than any of his team-mates, even striking Patel into the stands at midwicket for the only six of the innings. An attempt to repeat the shot against the 37-year-old found Cook in the deep. Nevertheless, the Australian’s jolt of adrenaline was enough for the tail to sneak to 120.
Even with the deck as it was, the expectation was of a comfortable Rockets win, given a line-up packed full of international experience. However, their three T20I centurions all underwhelmed: Alex Hales clubbed Little to cover, Malan (19) gifted Stubbs a leading edge into tthe covers off Walter, and Colin Munro (16) gave Parkinson the last laugh with a catch at long-off after striking him for back-to-back fours.
Patel offered little with the bat. He was struck on the head by a Walter short ball and then fell for just nine from 13 to leave a testing yet achievable 36 from 26. By the final 15, just after Moores had become Walter’s second, there were 24 required which became 15 from 13 when a scampered three was followed by a Daniel Sams heave to leg off Tom Hartley that was carried over the boundary by Lammonby.
Another go at clearing that region went too straight and into Stubbs’ mitts at long-on, the first of two wickets for four runs in the eight balls that led to Gleeson’s fateful final five.
The journey to that point had been long and winding, beginning at the start of August and featuring a Friday-night detour to the Ageas Bowl for Manchester Originals to earn the right to be here. And now, thanks to two wickets each for Little, Walter, Hartley and Parkinson, they were on the verge of doing it the hard way. Now they’ll have to start from the beginning and do it all again.
As for the Rockets, this was no less than they deserved. They have set the standard in the men’s competition, right down to leaning on Nottinghamshire’s fashioning of Trent Bridge into one of the best short-form venue experiences in the world. For the longest time, the ground and the county have set a high standard for white ball cricket. Now they have another trophy to show for it, after a match that served a timely reminder that, no matter the format, cricket always wins.
Vithushan Ehantharajah is an associate editor for ESPNcricinfo