Notts Outlaws 165 for 3 (Hales 60, Duckett 47) beat Leicestershire Foxes 161 for 8 (Swindells 61, Fletcher 3-17) by seven wickets
Nottinghamshire Outlaws have consolidated their push for a quarter-final spot in the Vitality Blast by easing to a seven-wicket victory over neighbours Leicestershire Foxes in their North Group clash at the Fischer County Ground.
A 96-run partnership between Alex Hales and Ben Duckett for the second wicket put the Outlaws in control as they chased 162 to win and, although they wobbled a little when the pair were out in consecutive overs, Tom Moores and Dan Christian were able to see them safely over the line with seven balls to spare.
Hales raced to a 28-ball half-century and while he was not able to build on it substantially, it was still the innings of the night, containing eight fours and a six.
Harry Swindells and Colin Ackermann shared a 76-run partnership for the third wicket but Luke Fletcher, whose only previous appearance in this season’s Blast had been against Leicestershire at Trent Bridge, celebrated his return to the line-up by taking 3 for 17 as the Foxes were limited to a score that seemed 15 or 20 runs under par.
After after winning the toss and making a busy start, moving nicely to 41 without loss in the fifth over, the Foxes stumbled at the end of the Powerplay as Mark Cosgrove sliced a well-disguised slower ball from Harry Gurney gently to short third man and Fletcher bowled Arron Lilley for a two-ball duck to leave the home side needing to reset at 44 for 2.
Captain Ackermann, presented with his county cap just before play began, was quickly finding the boundary, helping advance the total to 78 for 2 at the half-way stage, Samit Patel conceding 13 in the 10th over.
Ackermann and Swindells looked comfortable, their partnership worth fifty in six and a half overs to give their side a decent platform at 100 for 2 in the 13th over. However, after Swindells had completed a resourceful half-century off 42 balls with his fifth four, the partnership ended in the 15th over as Ackermann mistimed a leg-side full toss to be caught at deep midwicket.
Play was held up as fast bowler Jake Ball needed treatment on his left hand after an instinctive attempt at a return catch driven back at him by Swindells. Ball was able to continue and the pain was eased two balls later when Swindells hit him straight to mid-on.
The Foxes, 129 for 4 with six overs remaining, needed to accelerate to ensure they posted a total they would be confident of defending. They were donated five wides by Matthew Carter but the tall off-spinner recovered well from the lapse to take out Harry Dearden’s leg stump.
The finish was not as productive as they would have liked, however, Fletcher and Gurney sharing three wickets in three tight overs at the death to restrict the home side to 161 for 8.
Needing to score at a tad over eight an over, the Outlaws began brightly but lost Joe Clarke to the first ball of the fourth over, the opener finding Lilley on the midwicket boundary as he tried to clear the rope off Ackermann, having had a lucky escape when Callum Parkinson spilled a sitter at short third man.
Hales looked in the groove, however, hitting Will Davis for four-four-four-six in the fifth over, taking another couple of boundaries off Dieter Klein in the next as the Outlaws raced to 56 for 1 in the Powerplay.
Parkinson and Lilley dragged back the flow of runs briefly but Duckett eased the pressure with a couple of boundaries off Gavin Griffiths before Hales completed his fifty off 28 balls, celebrating with an eighth four off the next delivery by Davis as the Outlaws reached the halfway stage at 95 for 1, needing 67 more.
The task became less straightforward when both Duckett and Hales were out in the space of eight deliveries, Duckett picking out virtually the only fielder on the legside boundary to fall for 47 when he swatted away a short ball from Klein in the 13th, before Hales was bowled for 60 making room to hit Parkinson through the offside.
The partnership had added 96 but the double setback offered a glimmer of hope for the home side, which would have grown had Dearden not matched Parkinson earlier by dropping a dolly when Moores had made only one.
Outlaws were still favourites, needing 36 from the last five overs, helped on their way when Christian sent a couple of wide balls from Davis rocketing to the offside boundary, and he and Moores were able to complete the job with no further alarms.