Hampshire 152 for 8 (McDermott 62, Parkinson 4-26) beat Lancashire 151 for 8 (Croft 36, Fuller 2-19, Dawson 2-23) by 1 run
Ellis had overstepped. Enough to have piqued the television umpire’s interest and fractionally so that a few looks were required, by which time the fireworks had been set off and stumps ripped out of the ground. And so the players reset, though not before picking their jaws up off the floor and putting their eyes back it. Quite how anyone continued, even for one more ball, was a testament to the manner in which these professionals can switch on and off in the blink of an eye.
In many ways, how else could a successful 2022 Blast campaign have panned out for Hampshire? From the start, it has been one of coming back from the brink: overcoming a start of four defeats in a row to win 11 out of 12 to reach this final. At the halfway stage, they figured they were about 25 to 30 short with their 152. A few hours earlier, Lancashire had chased down 205 in their semi-final against Yorkshire, with eight balls to spare, no less. This? Surely no bother.
But Hampshire clawed back from 72 for 1 in the eighth over, then from needing to prevent 11 from the final seven deliveries. And then back from the brink of their own jubilation and, of course, from the very real possibility of what might have been one of the most outrageous about-turns in the history of this format. Heck, maybe even sport itself. As the mural in their players’ dining room states, underneath a photo of Australian and Hampshire legend Shane Warne: “Never give up. Just absolutely never give up.” Well, they didn’t.
The Australian assumed it well, striking 30 of the powerplay’s 48 runs off just 17 deliveries, then doing everything within his power to shift the scoreboard along, all while he had more changes of partner than a bride at her Cèilidh. In the 11th over, he took the silencer off and carted Luke Wells for 21 runs, including a six into the Hollies Stand and another over long off.
What impetus there was at the end of that blitz, with 90 for 4 and nine overs remaining, was ripped out by a delivery from Parkinson at the start of the next over which carried on into McDermott and bowled him, leg stump. The right-hander dragged himself off, clearly irate he was coaxed into playing for turn away from him, and perhaps also wondering who would be the one to step up and fill the void he left. After all, of the 11 boundaries struck up to 11.1 overs, all but one – a four over extra cover by Joe Weatherly – came off his bat.
Ultimately, the answer was no one. Well, not really, anyway. Hampshire only managed two more fours and two more sixes as Dane Vilas stuck to tried-and-tested death plans with Gleeson, Hartley, Luke Wood and Danny Lamb sharing the last five overs between them, for 40 runs.
A remaining equation of 76 more to get out of 68 balls still favoured Lancashire, especially with Vilas at the crease. By no means as fluent as his 63 not out hours earlier, a six deliberately sliced over third man suggested he was getting his eye in. It also brought the hundred up at the end of the 12th over, but that satisfaction was tempered when Vilas fell in the 13th, failing to hit over his opposing captain Vince at cover for Dawson’s second.
Then came the turning point that wasn’t – or was, depending on your allegiances and views on fate. Crane seemed to have trapped Wells lbw, given out by umpire Millns. The left-hander seemed resigned to his fate but rolled the dice with a review and came up big. Ball tracking showed a predicted path beyond leg stump, even hinting that Crane sent down a googly, leaving the leg spinner and his teammates utterly bemused as they watched the big screen.
Even as the great Australian hype Tim David came and went for 8, this time Hampshire ending up on the right side of a review to a plumb lbw off James Fuller. And so the continued presence of Wells carried greater importance as the game stepped further into the death.
Wells was on strike for the start of the penultimate over against Wood, with a seemingly improbable 23 required. With one ball left in the 19th, that had come back down to 11 thanks to a six lifted over deep backward square leg, a four carved through midwicket and then a heart-stopping skier which inexplicably landed between McDermott and Wheal at short fine leg.
Just as it looked like the gods were smiling on Wells and Lancashire, a tip-and-run to obtain the strike for the final over resulted in disaster. Vince gathered perfectly, set himself and threw down the stumps at the non-striker’s from cover. Given how things panned out, the value of the run saved was as integral as the man dismissed.
Four runs from the first three of the 20th and a perfect under-arm run out of Wood from McDermott meant the unlikely sources of Hartley and Gleeson had to try and find four from the final two without being dismissed to win. Even with their unlikely do-over, they fell one short.
However you decide to square all this, whether of Hampshire, Lancashire or neutral, you’ll be in no doubt of the glory of this game. At a time when the Vitality Blast has found itself as a prop for an ongoing culture war within English cricket, there was something quite beautiful in the fact it had a true hall-of-fame moment, at the end of what was the perfect example of the light and shade, boom and bust, rhythm and blues of Twenty20 cricket. Next time they talk about whether the Vitality Blast is really all that, tell them the 2022 Final sent you.
Vithushan Ehantharajah is an associate editor for ESPNcricinfo