Nottinghamshire left wondering if they've lost their mojo after tie with Worcestershire
In an uncanny reminder of 2019 semi-final defeat at Edgbaston, Notts fritter away another sure thing
Worcestershire 152 for 6 (Libby 52*, Whiteley 42) tied with Nottinghamshire 152 for 8 (Clarke 45, Trego 35, Hales 31, Moeen 2-15)
In an uncanny reminder of their 2019 semi-final defeat at Edgbaston, in which Worcestershire fought back to triumph by one run, they frittered away another sure thing, this time at least escaping with a tie when Peter Trego was run out by Ed Barnard, who was in from the rope to save two at long-on and whose flat throw was accurate enough for wicketkeeper Ben Cox to complete the job.
With half the runs bagged, the game was theirs, but Worcestershire have a habit of rescuing games from unpromising situations and they scrapped on a slow surface. Five were needed from Josh Tongue's last over. Tongue's trusty right boot ran out Luke Fletcher as he failed to steal a leg bye and Trego did not get back on strike until the final ball.
Mullaney at least had a tie but talked about it as if it was a loss: "It's a game we should never have lost after the Powerplay," he said. "We lost wickets at key times with some decisions and poor executions."
Notts had cramped up after some serious muscle flexing in the Powerplay. Ben Dwarshius was the leading wicket-taker for Sydney Sixers in the Big Bash but his first two overs went for 15 during an undistinguished debut. Tongue's first over bled 23, plus a couple of leg byes. There were seven sixes, none better than the two Clarke produced in the space of three balls against Tongue as he touched speeds just below 90mph/145kph - an elegant front foot pull, and a cheeky ramp shot after he had survived an lbw appeal.
Hales' most notable moment was a stunningly timed straight six against Tongue when he did little more than hold a defensive pose. Shunned by England, but as dangerous as ever, he played with grim and resolute expression, looking every inch like Johnny Ringo in Tombstone. The last over of the Powerplay did for him as he pulled Morris to long on.
Joe Clarke set Nottinghamshire on their way PA Photos/Getty Images
Libby's 52 not out from 43 balls was far from explosive, but it was a sticky pitch, and it arose from a troubled start of 26 for 3 in four overs. He survived a return catch to Mullaney, worked hard for the gaps, and only had the release of three boundaries; two of those came from a thick edge and a misfield.
Worcestershire's tinkering with the order did not pay off. Matt Carter deceived Brett D'Oliveira, who is being tried out as an opener, with a short ball that beat his advance down the wicket on his leg side and had him stumped by yards. Moeen also failed in a foray down the pitch and was bowled leg stump by one that turned through the gate. Add Riki Wessels' run out, beaten by a direct hit from deepish mid off by Mullaney and Nottinghamshire's authority was soon established.
After Cox had been picked off by Mullaney's return catch, Libby found support from Whiteley in a stand of 78 from 57 balls. Notts' bowlers settled into the season. Fletcher ran through his repertoire of slower balls, although he will hope to gain more control as the season goes on; and Calvin Harrison, a legspinner signed this week on a three-month contract, and with previous experience at Hampshire, also settled into his season.
Notts took pace off the ball like the old pros they are. Moeen gambled on reserving his slower bowlers until deep into Notts' reply and limited Barnard to a single over. It paid off, although nobody was entirely sure how or why.
David Hopps writes on county cricket for ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps