Oval Invincibles 125 for 6 (Roy 56*, Patel 2-21) beat Trent Rockets for 116 for 8 (Narine 3-11) by nine runs
It was nearly seven hours after the initial start time when Tom Curran had Rashid Khan caught at mid-off to put the finishing touches on the win. A crowd of 19,382 stuck it out after two short bursts of rain were enough to wipe out the women’s match and 70 balls of the men’s, and while plenty of families had long since left for home, those who stayed were treated to a high-octane game with a tense finish.
The Invincibles’ total of 125 – four more than Welsh Fire had managed on the same pitch earlier this week, despite the full 100 balls – owed much to Roy, whose 56 was the match’s only significant contribution by a batter and accounted for more than half of the Invincibles’ runs off the bat. He was destructive against both spin and pace, crunching four sixes into the stands, and batted through the innings to hold things together.
Narine was the key man in the chase, removing three of the Rockets’ top four and returning remarkable figures of 3 for 11. The only surprise was that the Invincibles’ captain, Sam Billings, opted against giving him his full allocation of 15 balls. Five batters made double figures, but Lewis Gregory’s 28 not out was the highest score.
Roy’s lone hand
Most teams around the world agree that the way to go against Roy early in an innings is to thrown the ball to a spinner whose stock ball turns away from his outside edge, and Gregory gave the first two sets of five to Samit Patel and Rashid Khan, defending a long leg-side boundary. But Roy was not in the mood to nudge and nurdle: Rashid gave his first ball some flight, so he swung viciously to crunch the first six of the innings over long-off.
He was briefly becalmed in the middle phase of the innings, after the Powerplay, and was given a life on 18 when Rashid dropped a simple chance at deep midwicket, but was brutal against Matt Carter (whom he hit for 20 runs off seven balls) and Timm van der Gugten (19 off 6) while batting through the innings for 56 off 29.
The Invincibles struggled for partnerships – the highest was the first-wicket stand of 39 that Roy shared with Will Jacks, the only other batter to reach double figures – but their middle order maintained their attacking intent, with the pinch-hitting Narine the only one of their eight batters not to hit a boundary.
Samit Patel (2 for 21 from 15 balls) and debutant Sam Cook (1 for 10 from 10) were the pick of the Rockets attack, but Rashid (1 for 28 from 15) struggled to make an impact. They were occasionally sloppy in the field, with van der Gugten dropping a dolly at midwicket off Jacks early on – though Gregory took a blinder at short extra cover to remove Colin Ingram.
Every Ball Counts
The Hundred’s ubiquitous tagline took on a new meaning during Reece Topley’s first set of five. Alex Hales, the key man in the Rockets’ chase, had hit the first two deliveries for four and two, backing away to open up the off side with the two boundary-riders defending the shorter leg side, but his night took a turn for the worse moments later.
Topley banged the ball in on a hard length, cramped him for room, and sent him tumbling with a cry of “oh no!” picked up by the stump mic. Hales lay prone for several minutes, with Ebony Rainford-Brent explaining on Sky Sports for those in any doubt that he had been “nailed in the goolie woolie woolies”.
Liam Livingstone, himself struck in a similar manner twice in the same Big Bash game two seasons ago, tweeted “I feel you Alex” with a string of laughing emojis before looking up from his phone to see what appeared to be an action replay: Topley digging one in on a length, and Hales struck in the same, sore spot. Mercifully, an inside-edge appeared to lessen the pain.
Hales pulled himself together and slog-swept Shamsi for six via the top edge, but never found full flow again and was cleaned up while trying to cut Narine for 25.
Rockets’ crash landing
Rockets were always behind the required rate after managing 26 for 1 from their 16-ball Powerplay – the Invincibles made 36 for 0 – but cameos from Patel, Gregory, Steven Mullaney and Rashid kept them in the game. Rashid in particular was wasted at No. 8 in a shortened game, swinging for the hills and nailing two huge sixes.
Invincibles were forced to bring an extra fielder into the inner ring for the final 11 balls, and when Saqib Mahmood’s final set of five went for 17 runs, another 17 off the last five looked attainable. But Rashid chipped Curran to mid-off, and Invincibles closed out a third home win out of three.
They jump into second in the table – having started the day in sixth – and now looked well-placed to reach the knockout stages. Rockets stay top, but are wobbling at the wrong time with two defeats in their last three.
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98