Worcestershire 206 for 2 (Ferguson 102*, Moeen 65) beat Nottinghamshire 134 (Mullaney 55, Parnell 3-20, Brown 3-21) by 72 runs
Martin Guptill is a tough act for any batsman to follow but Worcestershire may not miss the hard-hitting Kiwi for very long if Callum Ferguson performs in the way he did here as the Rapids maintained their momentum in the Vitality Blast.
Ferguson’s first T20 hundred in 88 attempts helped the Rapids build their biggest total of the season, one that proved far too much for Nottinghamshire Outlaws, whose grip on the trophy they won so impressively last season is looking decidedly shaky.
Ferguson’s unbeaten 102 off 56 balls is the second personal milestone he has achieved during his two spells at New Road this summer.He opened his first visit by hitting 192 against Leicestershire in the Royal London One-Day Cup, easily his best in List A cricket.
As it happens, Guptill signed off with 102 against Northamptonshire in the last of his seven Vitality Blast matches before leaving to join Barbados Tridents in the Caribbean Premier League.
Worcestershire have now won seven of their nine completed matches and lead the North Group by three points as they seek to reach finals day for the first time, having been losing quarter-finalists three times. They had targeted this match as one that might be a yardstick of how far they are capable of progressing and in the end exceeded the best hopes.
“Nottinghamshire are a really good side and that was a big game for us,” Ferguson said afterwards. “We thought 160 or 170 would maybe be a par score on this pitch after getting 200 we were confident we could defend the total, especially on a surface that we felt was slowing up towards the end of our innings.
“It was a really good performance and sets us up nicely for the rest of the competition.”
Nottinghamshire seemed to have corrected their losing habit at home this season, winning their last two fixtures in front of packed houses at Trent Bridge, including a nine-run victory over East Midlands rivals Derbyshire.
Yet, even with Alex Hales back from a side injury to play his first domestic match for two months, they could never reach the scoring rate needed to have a realistic chance of chasing down a target of 207 after Ferguson and Moeen Ali had put on an exhibition of destructive batting that even the most partisan in the home crowd had to applaud.
After Hales had chipped Wayne Parnell straight to mid-off, their best hope of getting anywhere close ended in a fashion that rather summed up their night when Steven Mullaney, the one Nottinghamshire batsman who had looked capable of making a meaningful game of it, was run out for 55 when he made the schoolboy error of failing to ground his bat after comfortably completing a single.
After his demise, the Outlaws capitulated all too rapidly. Billy Root and Jake Libby were out in the same Patrick Brown over. The last five Nottinghamshire wickets fell in the space of three overs. Parnell claimed 3 for 20, finishing the match off with two in two balls, but too many Nottinghamshire batsmen gave their wickets away cheaply.
Joe Clarke had been an early scalp for Harry Gurney after Worcestershire had opted to bat first, chipping an easy return catch to the left-armer in the second over of the innings, but there was no more success for the Nottinghamshire bowlers until the 15th over as Ferguson and Moeen took turns to find gaps in the field.
Moeen was ruthlessly brutal, clearing the rope four times in his 36-ball 65, a couple of blows threatening the upper levels of the Radcliffe Road stand as Samit Patel suffered the indignity of conceded 19 in an over.
Having been 51 for 1 at the end of the Powerplay, Worcestershire powered on relentlessly to be 83 for 1 at the halfway stage, then adding 47 in three overs to be 138 for 1 after 14 before Dan Christian took a well-judged catch on the off-side as Moeen miscued Ish Sodhi.
With Ross Whiteley, never one to pass up a chance to throw the bat, taking over from Moeen, there was no loss of momentum in the Worcestershire innings, 60 runs coming in the final six overs, which was just enough time for Ferguson to reach three figures.
He said that the confidence shown in him by his team-mates is helping him with the pressure of trying to pick up where Guptill left off.
“Guppy is a tough act to follow but there is a lot of belief in the dressing room and I guess some of that rubs off on you as an individual,” he said. “And when you get the chance tobat with Moeen Ali when he is in that kind of mood it helps too.
“I’m enjoying my time here. I’ve played most of career in Australia batting the middle order so I have really enjoyed the opportunity to bat higher up the list.”