AARON FINCH saved his best for last, but was unable to prevent Yorkshire crashing out of the T20 Blast as Nottinghamshire pulled off a stunning heist at Headingley last night.
Finch hit 89 on his last appearance for the county before he leaves to attend a training camp with the Australian side.
Finch’s innings, which eclipsed his 88 against Lancashire at Old Trafford, came from 46 balls with four fours and seven sixes and helped Yorkshire to 200-5 – their sixth-highest total in the format and a seemingly invincible one.
But Nottinghamshire prevailed with four balls to spare after plundering 115 off the last 10 overs – including 38 off the last 11 balls – to set up a home quarter-final with Hampshire.
Yorkshire, who would have gained an away quarter-final to Essex had they won, were eliminated by this result and the fact Birmingham Bears beat Leicestershire at Edgbaston.
That took Birmingham one point above Yorkshire into fourth place after they had crucially won at Headingley last week.
Yorkshire, who finished with six wins, five defeats and three no-results, therefore failed to qualify despite having the world’s No 1 T20 batsman in Finch and a team to be feared on paper.
Of all their disappointments in recent times, this must rank as one of the greatest.
Finch, who underperformed in the competition overall, got Yorkshire off to a flying start in front of 8,662 on a balmy night.
He hit 15 runs off the second over, bowled by former Yorkshire pace bowler Ajmal Shahzad, who was booed by the crowd when he came on at the Rugby Stand end.
Finch rubbed salt into Shahzad’s wounds by depositing his first ball over extra-cover for six, caressing his second delivery for four through mid-on and cutting the third to the backward-point boundary.
On a true surface and fast outfield, he gained the highest value for his shots.
Kane Williamson got in on the act when he cut Jake Ball for four to the foot of the White Rose Stand, but the New Zealander fell in the fourth over to Ball’s next delivery when he walked across his stumps and was lbw.
Alex Lees breezed in and promptly breezed out, striking a quick 16 before he, too, went lbw to Ball, who deceived him with a full-length delivery as Yorkshire slipped to 51-2 in the sixth.
Finch reasserted the home team by slapping successive sixes off Samit Patel – the first over cow corner to the right of the Carnegie Pavilion, the second over long-off just over the head of a leaping James Franklin.
Finch’s fourth six, high over long-off into the Rugby Stand off Steven Mullaney, took him to fifty off 27 balls.
Yorkshire were 92-2 at halfway, 57 of them to the ferocious Finch.
The 27-year-old crashed Shahzad for another six over cow corner, launched Patel into the black sightscreen at the Rugby Stand end, and then deposited Ball over mid-wicket for his seventh maximum.
There seemed no limit to how many he might end up with but he perished in paradoxically tame fashion.
When Franklin strayed down leg, Finch got the faintest tickle on the ball and was brilliantly caught by wicketkeeper Chris Read, one-handed to his left, to leave Yorkshire 132-3 in the 14th.
Finch departed to a standing ovation having added 81 in eight overs with Jonny Bairstow, whose contribution to the partnership was 17.
Bairstow had faced only 13 balls at that stage and needed just 14 more to reach his half-century, equalling Finch’s rate of progress to the milestone and striking a six of his own when he nonchalantly flicked Luke Fletcher over mid-wicket into the White Rose Stand.
Andrew Gale went cheaply, skying an attempted leg-side blow off Mullaney to Read, which left Yorkshire 158-4 in the 16th.
But Tim Bresnan – preferred at No 6 over Adam Lyth – thumped a useful 19, adding 42 in 25 balls with Bairstow, who ended unbeaten on 60 from 34 balls with five fours and a six.
Nottinghamshire’s reply gained impetus in the third over when Mullaney hit successive sixes off Ryan Sidebottom – one over mid-wicket, one over cover.
Mullaney got it wrong in the next over when he miscued a pull off Bresnan to Lees at mid-on.
Lees took his second catch to end a stand of 70 for the second wicket in eight overs between Alex Hales and Rikki Wessels, the latter pulling to deep mid-wicket after striking 29 from 27.
Hales, who hit a straight six off Pyrah and two leg-side maximums off Adil Rashid, the second of which struck a woman in the crowd, fell trying a fourth six when he spooned Bresnan to Azeem Rafiq at deep mid-wicket, having made 67 from 40 balls with six fours and three sixes.
Patel clubbed 26 off 16 deliveries before spooning Pyrah to Finch at long-on, which brought the dangerous Franklin to the crease.
The New Zealander hit his first two balls for six over mid-wicket off Pyrah before James Taylor lashed three successive fours off Sidebottom in the penultimate over, followed by a six over mid-wicket off his final delivery that soared over the White Rose Stand and out of the ground.
That left six needed off the final over and Franklin creamed Bresnan’s second delivery for six over long-off.