Moeen Ali and Ed Barnard powered Worcestershire Rapids to an impressive victory over Nottinghamshire Outlaws on the opening evening of this season’s Vitality Blast.
The defending champions have retained the ability to win tight encounters and they deservedly had the better of Notts Outlaws at Trent Bridge, winning by 28 runs.
Both Ali and Barnard had outstanding all-round matches. Ali scored 32 and took four for 18, whilst his younger team-mate hit an unbeaten 42 and played a decisive hand in the Outlaws’ unsuccessful run chase.
The visitors scored 161 for six, after winning the toss and opting to bat first, largely due to an unbroken seventh wicket stand.
Barnard put on 59 with Ben Cox, who made 21. Samit Patel, with two for 26, and Harry Gurney, who took two for 33, each picked up two wickets for the home side.
Notts recovered from 16 for two to 85 for three but the fall of Alex Hales’ wicket, bowled by Barnard for 52, sucked the life out of the run chase and the hosts limped along to 133 for nine.
Nine of the players that appeared for the Rapids in last year’s final victory over Sussex were involved, although two of them – Joe Clarke and Luke Wood – were wearing opposition colours.
Wood, who was on loan at New Road last season, bowled the opening over of the match and then almost had the first breakthrough as he threw down the stumps of Riki Wessels in the next over.
The former Outlaws batsman survived narrowly but then miscued Gurney high to short fine leg.
Callum Ferguson, who hit a century in the corresponding fixture last season, chopped Jake Ball onto his stumps, leaving the visitors on 41 for two after the powerplay.
Martin Guptill, central to the drama of the closing moments in Sunday’s ICC World Cup Final at Lord’s, opened his shoulders to club Matt Carter’s off-spin for a huge leg-side six.
The New Zealand international made 27 from 24 balls before giving Wood a return catch in the eleventh over.
Patel, playing his 169th domestic T20 match – drawing level at the top of the standings with Darren Stevens, removed Ali, then had Libby to thank for a stunning boundary catch to dismiss Ross Whiteley.
The Rapids scrambled their way to a competitive total by adding 45 runs in the final three overs of their innings.
The vast majority of the 12,613 crowd looked on in disappointment as Clarke cut to point for only five at the start of the run chase.
Pat Brown, who led the wicket-taking chart a year ago, with 31, needed only three deliveries to open his account for the new campaign, with Ben Duckett hitting him to cover.
Hales scored his runs from 34 balls, which included three fours and three sixes, but his departure prompted a dramatic collapse as the middle order fell away against Ali’s off-spin.
Barnard topped off a fine individual performance with a remarkable boundary catch to send back the unfortunate Jake Libby, with the next four wickets falling for only 15 runs to start the Worcestershire celebrations.