Super Worcestershire Rapids ended 15 years of T20 heartache when beating Gloucestershire by five wickets in a tense, low-scoring Vitality Blast quarter-final at Blackfinch New Road.
After five defeats at the knockout stage, the Rapids will make their first appearance on finals day at Edgbaston on September 15, leaving Derbyshire as the only county not to have featured in the T20 showpiece.
Callum Ferguson, with the only half-century of the match, steered the Rapids through a nervy start and reached an unbeaten 64 from 73 balls in taking them beyond Gloucestershire’s 136 for eight with eight balls to spare.
What was a comfortable margin in the end was not looking likely when three Gloucestershire seamers each took a wicket in their first over.
Moeen Ali was leg-before to Matt Taylor’s first ball, Joe Clarke holed out to mid-wicket from AJ Tye’s fourth delivery and Brett D’Oliveira found midwicket from Benny Howell’s second.
Fortunately for Worcestershire they had Ferguson to ease the tension, reaching his 50 from 33 balls with six fours. The Australian’s cool head was as much the difference between the sides as Gloucestershire not scoring enough runs.
Worcestershire had one more wobble when Ben Cox chipped Howell to mid-wicket, but Ross Whiteley (20) eased the pressure in a partnership 52.
In the crucial 16th over bowled by Payne, Whiteley hit two sixes and the total was topped up by two wides and two no-balls until the left hander was caught at deep cover from what was the 10th delivery.
It seemed that Gloucestershire were unable to shake off a loss of momentum, having lost their last two games before taking the final qualifying position in the South Group.
Their batting was distinctly top heavy, the free and easy hitting by Miles Hammond merely a preliminary for a disjointed retreat in which they lost seven wickets for 60 in the second half of the innings.
The disparity was such that the first three in the order, Hammond (45 from 31 balls), Michael Klinger (24 from 23) and Ian Cockbain (35 from 29), were responsible for more than three-quarters of the total.
As soon as Worcestershire took pace off, five wickets were shared by Brett D’Oliveira, the leg-spinner taking a competition-best four for 15, and Daryl Mitchell, with his underrated cutters in a spell of one for 15.
They were backed up by a high standard in the field. Ed Barnard held three catches in the long-on area and it was his direct hit from short cover, running out Cockbain, which took away Gloucestershire’s chance of a meaningful recovery.
Yet they had promised so much against the quicker bowlers. Hammond, with one 50 in the competition this season, looked set for another as his clean striking brought the left hander five fours and two sixes.
However, he was tempted into an unnecessary risk when opting for the reverse sweep and falling lbw to Mitchell’s fourth ball.
From there it quickly became a procession. Klinger picked out Barnard in D’Oliveira’s first over and in no time half the side had gone for 97. After the front three, Gareth Roderick was the only player to reach double figures.