After watching Alex Hales clobber Surrey’s bowlers all around Lord’s to record the highest List A score on the ground, Chris Read was in no doubt about where the innings ranked: “Number one, pure and simple.”
Hales’ imperious, unbeaten 187 – having been dropped on 9 – allowed Nottinghamshire to get home with 13 balls to spare in their chase of 298 and claim the Royal London Cup. His innings spanned a 137-run sixth-wicket stand with Read, Nottinghamshire’s captain, who was able to lift a one-day trophy at Lord’s for the second time in four years, in his final season before retirement.
“Apart from the one he belted straight at cover early on,” Read added, with a laugh. “That aside, it was chanceless, but also the tempo of the innings. The one thing that made it easy for me, is all I needed to do was build a partnership, run rate was never an issue, throughout the time we were out there. All it meant was I had to be there, that was my role, because he did what he did. To be there at the end was special.”
With Hales batting aggressively from outset, Nottinghamshire just needed someone to stick with him. When Steven Mullaney fell at the start of the 26th over, Notts were 150 for 5 with Hales having scored 114 and Brendan Taylor the only other batsman to reach double-figures. Having been told early on by Michael Lumb that Hales was on for a big one, Read knew he “just had to stay there and knock it around”.
“I was acutely aware that the partnership needed to be built, which we’d failed to do,” Read said. “One bloke was on a hundred and we’d only managed to get one other bloke into double-figures, so what it needed was a partnership. The way he was playing, Lumby came to me shortly after he got out – Alex and Lumby know each other very, very well, they’ve opened for a long time – and he said: ‘He’s on today’. Well, if he says that… and you saw it. When he’s on, he’s as good as there is.”
The day had not started well for Notts, after Gareth Batty won the toss and chose to bat first in Surrey’s third consecutive Royal London Cup final. Jason Roy was dropped off the first ball of the morning and Surrey had reached 83 for 0 after 11 overs, before Read turned to Samit Patel – Man of the Match for his 3 for 21 in Notts’ YB40 win in 2013.
“The first ten overs was pretty awful,” Read said. “The wicket for Samit, who’s done so well with the ball here, he seems to make things happen… To get a wicket with his first ball, soon after the Powerplay. I had a little chat with the guys and said ‘look, we probably need to start now, let’s just scrap those last ten overs’. We got back on track and I thought, particularly through Mullaney and Samit, pace off worked well for us for a while and we managed to keep the run-scoring in check.
“After that ten overs I never felt out of control, the run rate never felt like it was getting away from us, which is important. Also having played in a semi and quarter-final where runs seemed to flow at will, we accept that good balls, bad balls can go for boundaries, we get over that, do our utmost in the field and back ourselves to chase whatever they got. We were disappointed at halftime about the way we fielded but ultimately we believed that 297 was very chaseable.”
Read is due to play at Lord’s again next week, in an MCC fixture against Afghanistan. He laughingly referred to “ducking Cairns’ slower ball”, in his second Test back in 1999, as one of his less enjoyable times on the ground but described the Royal London final as a “fairytale” finish to his one-day career.
“It’s brilliant, what a day. I came here in 2013, we had the Yorkshire Bank 40 final and that was my first Lord’s final. I was blown away by what a day it is. It’s an emotional day because of everything that’s going on. It’s a big moment in your career.
“The fans make it to a degree, when you hear them chanting. We get well supported at Trent Bridge and in T20 we get good crowds but when they make the effort to come to London to have a day out and cheer all day, that’s what brings it home. Today was a very special moment. We were party to one of the finest one-day innings that I’ve ever witnessed and it was just a pleasure to be at the other end for a decent chunk of that.
“I’ve some great times here, brilliant times. Some less so, obviously right at the start of my career, ducking Cairns’ slower ball, that wasn’t so good. Mostly past that has been great. Winning in 2013, the MCC bicentenary game, playing with the legends of my era, and then today. So yeah, it’s a fairytale.”
Read, whose next assignment alongside Hales could be in a 2nd XI match at Grantham to prepare for the start of the NatWest T20 Blast, was also positive about the decision to move the 50-over competition into the first half of the season, with the final played in July rather than September.
“The overhead conditions were for the most part great but the pitch was a beauty, which potentially we haven’t seen in 50-over finals of late because they come so late in the season on a potentially tired square. Also having that final in the middle of summer, it’s nice to get that out of the way, played that in a clump, now we can focus on T20, then the Championship reaches its finale towards the end, so I think there’s a good balance. Good pitches, nice weather, high-scoring games… I think 50-over cricket has definitely got a place in the future.”