Worcestershire Rapids won their first Vitality Blast title on their maiden Finals Day appearance with Moeen Ali, Pat Brown and Ben Cox starring in a five-wicket victory over Sussex Sharks at Edgbaston.
Ali (3-30) and 20-year-old old seamer Brown (0-15) limited the Sharks to 157-6 in Saturday’s final, Ali’s victims including Sussex skipper Luke Wright (33), who was playing his 300th Twenty20 match and coming off the back of a blazing 92 in his side’s win over Somerset in the semi-finals.
Brown, the leading wicket-taker in the tournament with 31 scalps in 16 matches, befuddled Sussex’s batsmen with his variety of slower balls as only Laurie Evans (52), the top run-scorer in the 2018 Blast with 614 in 14 innings, passed fifty for the 2009 champions.
Worcestershire’s hopes looked to be fading once Ali (41) was dismissed in the run chase but Cox, who struck an unbeaten 55 as the Rapids knocked out Lancashire in Saturday’s first semi-final, kept his cool with 46 not out from 27 deliveries, sealing victory with nine balls in the bank following a four off Jofra Archer.
Rapids required 17 with two overs to go but Archer’s no ball then flew away to the boundary for a total of six runs, before Cox swatted the free hit for six and then pulled away the winning four as Worcestershire claimed their first white-ball trophy since the NatWest Pro40 in 2007.
Ali claimed the key wicket of Wright in the 10th over of the Sussex innings, bowling the 33-year-old through the gate after he had shared a 58-run partnership with Evans for the second wicket.
Ali proceeded to have Delray Rawlins (21) caught in the deep and castled David Wiese (6) off a slight inside edge but Brown, who picked up 4-21 in the semi-final success over Lancashire, was the most economical of the Rapids attack, sending down 13 dot balls out of 24.
Brown bowled the 17th and penultimate overs, with the squeeze he put on Sussex ensuring they managed just one boundary and 26 runs in the final five overs, during which Evans was bowled by an Ed Barnard full toss.
Ali and Joe Clarke (33) thumped 61 for Worcestershire’s first wicket in under seven overs but Clarke, Tom Fell (1), Brett D’Oliveira (10) and Ali (41) then fell to the spin of either Danny Briggs (2-19) or Will Beer (2-32) as the Rapids lost 4-29 in five overs.
Beer was the man to remove Ali, Philip Salt atoning for being dozily run out during Sussex’s innings after failing to ground his bat by taking a fine diving grab at long-off.
However, Cox would not be denied, smacking Chris Jordan and Archer for important boundaries before the latter’s nightmare 19th over proved the last of the match.