The art of spin is often gesticulated as dying on these shores. ‘Where are the spinners?’ is a typical cry heralded at a tap in England that has often run dry in recent years.
Though that very art came to the fore last night as Samit Patel and fellow off-spinner Matthew Carter snaffled six wickets between them to turn Trent Rockets to a seven-run victory against Eoin Morgan’s London Spirit.
On a fizzing Lord’s pitch, spin accounted for all 12 wickets to fall as the Rockets were restricted to just 123 with four dismissals; largely down to Mohammad Nabi’s metronomic off-spin.
Opener D’Arcy Short helped maintain Trent Rockets’ 100 per cent record in The Hundred
But it was D’Arcy Short’s 70 not out which gave the away side any platform to defend in a below-par total just about strong enough.
In a sluggish chase, Spirit never got going as they kept losing wickets at regular intervals — eight in total, and far too many to haemorrhage in these shorter formats.
Once Patel had captain Morgan caught at deep mid-wicket to get his third wicket 62 balls in, the tide had completely turned and the match near settled.
Meagre crowds were certainly not an issue at the Home of Cricket tonight as the allotted stands brimmed with the young, the old and the in-between.
A target for drawing in more families and children at this new competition has fallen short at some grounds, but at Lord’s the opposite has so far been proven.
Monday’s first meeting between the Hundred and Lord’s saw the women’s game draw in 13,537 spectators — ‘a modern domestic record’ the ECB touted. Tonight drew a sizeable crowd of 23,892. The young future may just be able to find some middle ground with the hallowed past.
Spinners Matt Carter (above), Samit Patel and Rashid Khan played a key role in the victory
Though, pumping ‘tunes’ from the DJ box and middle-aged members in bacon and egg ties are unlikely to mix just yet. And it does not take away from the fact that large cross-sections of the revellers attracted to these matches are the ones typically seen at late-night T20 Blast fixtures across the country.
Could a similarly sustained dose of funding and publicity have produced such results in the Blast that the ECB so badly want? Maybe so, but that is a discussion for another day.
Spirit thought they had opener Alex Hales out five balls in off Mohammad Amir’s bowling, but the ball had clearly hit the ground before ricocheting into the fielder’s grasp. The third umpire confirmed so.
Hales certainly wasn’t budging from the crease as the fielding side celebrated. The man responsible for his international exile was captaining the opposition — Morgan.
This was Hales’ chance to get his own back for the banishment he has faced since failing a drug test for use of a recreational drug two years ago.
He launched a six into cow corner and looked to be getting into his groove, until he was stumped by Tom Moores for 21 from off-spinner Nabi’s quicker ball that gripped and turned.
Trent Rockets claimed a thrilling seven-run victory in front of nearly 24,000 fans at Lord’s
Nabi then snaffled England’s No1 Twenty20 international batsman Dawid Malan in a sharp catch low to the ground off his own bowling.
Spin was proving king on the Lord’s wicket as Mason Crane and Nabi quickly rifled through their allocation of 20 balls each for 16 and 20 runs respectively.
It was also a Morgan masterclass in captaincy. He expertly timed when to bowl his spinners, how long for and when to rotate.
When Nabi was extrapolating little spin from one end, the captain rotated him to the other. When Van der Merwe was getting splayed across the ground, he was taken off but crucially, brought on again later.
That the Rockets got anywhere close to a below-par target was thanks to opener Short, who settled for the anchor role and batted to the end.
In fairness, he had no choice as the only batter who looked comfortable on the wicket. The Australian crafted a classy 70 off 47 balls, including four boundaries off the last set of five — a modern ramp shot, too, for good measure.
That late flourish gave the visiting side something to defend, albeit slim.
Having seen spin work so well against his batters, Lewis Gregory’s Rockets also deployed this route on the field and it immediately paid off.
Off-spinner Carter had Adam Rossington caught at square leg, and then the big-hitting Nabi top-edging to mid-off with just 25 on the board.
Morgan entered the crease and pulled out his trademark reverse sweep to bring a boundary and show signs of hope for the home side. But when he charged down the wicket to Patel and launched the ball down Chris Wood’s throat at deep mid-wicket to fall for 18, the writing was on the wall.