The third Vitality Blast quarter-final – a reprise of last year’s final – brought the same result, with the Worcestershire Rapids defeating the Sussex Sharks, this time by eight wickets.
Moeen Ali may have lost his England place but his sweet hitting adorns the Vitality Blast. The Rapids captain led by example with a classy 121 not out off just 60 balls which saw his side home with 14 balls to spare. He reached his century from 50 balls and with his ninth six, over backward square-leg off Will Beer and settled the match with his 11th maximum. There were also eight fours. He was well supported by Riki Wessels, who made a 46-ball 47 in a second wicket stand of 177.
The Sharks got off to a great start when the Rapids batted and Reece Topley bowled Joe Leach with the third ball of the innings. But Alex Carey dropped Moeen for just five off Ollie Robinson in the second over. When Moeen was dropped again, this time by David Wiese on the boundary, he was on 78 and the match was all but won. By the time he was put down a third time, by Topley, he had his hundred and the tie was in the bag.
When the Sharks batted, a first-innings stand of 84 in 8.5 overs between captain Luke Wright and Phil Salt set them up for a competitive total. Salt reached his fifty from 31 deliveries, but in the same Daryl Mitchell over, which went for 16 runs, Wright – who was recovering from a thumb injury - was out for a 22-ball 28, caught by Ed Barnard at cow corner.
Sussex were powerfully placed at 94 for one at the halfway stage. Mitchell’s second over went for 22 as Salt again hit him for two sixes. But then the batsman was caught at long-on. Mitchell had been expensive but he had disposed of both Sharks’ openers. Salt’s 40-ball 72 included five fours and five sixes.
It was the beginning of a Sussex collapse which saw them lose three wickets in two overs. Carey, back in the side after returning from the Australia squad, skied Barnard to keeper Ben Cox for just eight and then, two balls later, the big-hitting Wiese had his middle stump uprooted first ball by Barnard.
When Delray Rawlins skied a return catch to Moeen for just five the Rapids had fought their right back into the game. Chris Jordan was caught behind for only two, to leave the Sharks 156 for six in the 17th over. But an unbeaten 43 from 31 balls by Laurie Evans, ensured a strong Sussex total. Evans struck five fours, two off the last two balls of the innings bowled by the clever Pat Brown.