T20 is an area of cricket that divides the fans; some of them hate it, preferring to watch the purer form of the game. Others love the glitz and the drama that it offers. But Finals Day is one of the most eagerly anticipated days in the calendar. Whether you want to or not, it's impossible not to get drawn in; you subconsciously choose a team, even if you have no obvious allegiances either way, you join in. There was Somerset, the bridesmaids of T20 cricket. Twice into the semis, twice into the finals and always falling at the last hurdle. Lancashire; a team that had been tipped to dominate the CB40 table this year. Hampshire are always strong favourites, having won last year and then there was Leicestershire, the undoubted underdogs of the competition.
I don't want to get all fairytale on this post, but the stage was set for something magnificent for Leics. The day was to be keeper Paul Nixon's last match in England; a true character behind the stumps, Nixon has given twenty three years to the game, eighteen of them at Leicestershire, and the common feeling amongst the players, fans and pundits was that Nico deserved to go out on a bang. The first game of the day seemed to go badly for Leicestershire. They lost early wickets, were unable to get forward to Lancashire's spin attack and despite a strong burst toward the end of the innings by Will Jefferson, they looked as though they had fallen short. But they bowled well; following another rain break not long into Lancashire's innings, the Lanky's seemed to loose all composure, and the effectiveness of Henderson's spin meant that the wickets tumbled.
But it wasn't to be that easy. After smashing a six off the last ball of the game, the scores were tied; we were in Super Over territory. No-one knew what was happening, least of all the umpires, who appeared to be checking the rule books frantically. After an awful lot of messing about - which gave the Edgbaston crowd time to get suitably smashed and make up some inventive chants, my favourite being 'where's Afridi gone? WHERE'S AFRIDI GONE?!' - Lancashire took to the field to amass a bigger score as possible off one over. And it was here where Leicestershire excelled. Henderson, the selected bowler, kept his nerve, despite his first two deliveries being swatted for a boundary and a six respectively, and ended the over on two dot balls. Then, a timely, smart and ultimately big hitting cameo by Jefferson (he hit 15 off 4 balls) meant that Leicestershire were in the final.
After another slightly farcical end to the Somerset v. Hampshire game - Hampshire lost, which gave the crowd something to cheer about - it was very much the battle of the fairytales. The underdogs versus the perpetual runners-ups. The final game had everything that a cricket fan can hope for. There was big hitting; there was stupid hitting. Stunning catches, silly misfields, sledging from behind the wickets by Nixon, who was in fine voice for the entire day, and an tense but unbelievable end result. Leicestershire seemed to have fallen just short of a competitive score, due to the way Somerset tied them down in the final overs of the day. But Leicestershire came out to prove their doubters wrong, and prove they did.
Their fielding was incredible; despite a still fairly soggy outfield, they slid about to stop the boundaries, take their catches and do everything they could to rob Somerset of a victory. Although Kieswetter and Trescothick started to do what they do best - punch the ball every which way around the ground - Somerset never really got started, with the finest moment of the innings coming from Nixon himself. Taking a leaping catch almost at first slip to dismiss Keiron Pollard, one of the most dangerous batsmen in the shorter formats, it seemed only fitting that it should be Nixon who created the wobble that would cause Somerset to topple. The way his teammates reacted to the catch, and the noise that came from the crowd, was incredible; people wanted them to succeed. And succeed they did.
I don't want to get nostalgic, or soppy, but watching Leicestershire come from the position they have done - they were never really in any sort of consideration from the start of the season, as opposed to their three opponenents who were widely tipped as the favourites - was a truly fantastic moment. It was a fitting send off for Nixon, a wonderful win for a little team and ultimately, a great advert for the game and indicative of the talent that England have in the county ranks. And while it was impossible not to feel sorry for Trescothick and his boys, there was not a single fan who could deny that they had seen something incredibly special from the Leicestershire side; a side who have proved that they are as capable as anyone at fighting against the big guns.