Super Worcestershire Rapids held their nerve and pulled off a thrilling three run victory over Durham Jets in a NatWest T20 Blast clash under floodlights at the Emirates ICG this evening.
Excellent half centuries from skipper Daryl Mitchell and Tom Kohler-Cadmore – whose 53 not out was a T20 Blast personal best – propelled the Rapids to a challenging 159-5 after they had elected to bat.
An early blitz of boundaries from Mark Stoneman looked to have made the Jets favourites as they reached 40-0 from three overs.
But the introduction into the attack of Saeed Ajmal, who began his spell with a maiden, and a vital double breakthrough from Mitchell, helped the Rapids fight their way back into the contest harnessed to some excellent fielding.
Ajmal finished with 3-16 from his four oversand the Rapids gradually tightened their grip so that the task of scoring 22 off the final over from Jack Shantry proved beyond the Jets.
It was Worcestershire's third win in five matches and will help to make the long journey back from the North East a more pleasurable one before they start tomorrow to prepare for Sunday's LV = County Championship derby with Warwickshire at New Road.
Mitchell and Moeen Ali gave the Rapids innings early impetus with 38 off four overs before the latter on 26 was caught in the deep on the leg side off Chris Rushworth.
Richard Oliver (2) was caught at third man off Paul Collingwood from a top edge but then Mitchell and Kohler-Cadmore featured in the major partnership of the innings – 76 in 10 overs.
Mitchell, his side's leading scorer in last season's T20 Blast, went to his second half century of the current competition and past the 200 run mark.
He made a total of 56 from 49 balls with four fours before he holed out to long on off Usman Arshad at 126-3 in the 17th over.
The promoted Ross Whiteley (0) fell lbw to the same bowler first ball and Colin Munro (10) was run out by Calum MacLeod's throw from the deep going for a second run to the non striker's end off Arshad.
But Kohler-Cadmore, whose previous half century in the T20 Blast was against Birmingham Bears at Edgbaston last season, went to his 50 off 33 balls with his sixth boundary in the final over from John Hastings.
Stoneman started off like an express train and he collected three fours and a six in Ed Barnard's opening over.
Ajmal came into the attack at 40-0 after three overs and immediately applied the brakes by bowling a maiden to Phil Mustard.
It was Shantry who ended Stoneman's early run blitz as he toe ended a drive to Kohler-Cadmore at mid off after making 35 from just 14 deliveries.
The Worcestershire bowlers slowly but surely wrestled the initiative back from the home side.
Mitchell brought himself into the attack and in his second over he bowled MacLeod (13), who chopped the ball onto his stumps playing a reverse sweep, and next ball bowled Collingwood for a duck with the off stump knocked out of the ground.
Durham were 83-3 at the half-way stage but Ajmal picked up two wickets in an over to put the outcome back in the balance.
Phil Mustard (43) went for a reverse sweep and miscued to Kohler-Cadmore at point and then Ryan Pringle (1) came down the wicket and was stumped by Ben Cox with Durham 112-5 in the 14th over.
The pendulum was starting to swing Worcestershire's way and sharp work by Munro fielding at mid wicket and Cox led to Hastings (5) being run out off Moeen.
Ajmal's final over accounted for Usman Arshad (6) with Whiteley taking a steepling catch coming out of the lights in the deep.
Gordon Muchall struck some late blows in making 41 not out but the game was already mathematically beyond Durham's reach when he hit the final two balls from Shantry for four and six.
The county bowlers finished with figures of Shantry 4-0-34-1, Leach 2-0-17-0, Barnard 3-0-27-0, Ajmal 4-1-16-3, Moeen Ali 4-0-30-0 and Mitchell 3-0-23-2.