WORCESTERSHIRE Rapids opened their Vitality Blast campaign with an impressive 28 run win over the Nottinghamshire Outlaws before Friday’s clash with the Birmingham Bears was rained off.
Ahead of their defence of the trophy getting into full swing, Rapids players and coaching staff spoke to Observer sports editor Rob George about last year’s title winning campaign.
“It’s probably the most nervous I have ever been on a cricket field”
Long-serving Rapids all-rounder Daryl Mitchell’s thoughts not on the game which secured Worcestershire its first Vitality Blast trophy but the nerve-shredding quarter-final at New Road.
After topping last year’s north group, the Rapids welcomed Gloucestershire and were set a target of 137 to secure a place at Edgbaston.
A nervy 20 overs ensued but 64 not out from Aussie ace Callum Ferguson sent the Rapids to a five wicket win and a place at one of English cricket’s showpiece events.
“I’ve lost six on the trot and the club had lost seven knockout games before the Gloucestershire game so that was nerve wracking,” Mitchell admitted
His thoughts were echoed by club captain Joe Leach who was forced to miss the Vitality Blast campaign and much of last summer with a back injury.
“It’s the most nervous I have ever seen Daryl really, he’s normally quite cool but I was up in the changing room and he was pacing around,” he said.
“Gloucestershire was the big one for me, we didn’t play it particularly well but got over the line and were relaxed when we went to Edgbaston.”
The Rapids were then drawn to face Lancashire in the semi-final and slumped to 97-6 before big hitting from Ben Cox and Ed Barnard saw them post 169-6, 20 runs too many for their opponents who were bundled out for 149.
“Once we got there we were relaxed as we were history makers in a way, the first Worcestershire team to make Finals Day,” Mitchell said.
“We probably had the worst of the conditions against Lancashire, being stuck in on a damp wicket. The wicket got better so to come through that game was a special effort.”
After Sussex Shark slayed Somerset in the second semi-final, the Rapids tackled the south coast side under the lights in what the evergreen Mitchell described as ‘an amazing atmosphere’.
“In the final there were no nerves for me personally nor round the dressing room I think. Moeen (Ali) had a massive influence on the dressing room with his calmness and the way he speaks to people,” Mitchell said.
After restricting the Sharks to 157-6, the Rapids secured the trophy with 158-5 which saw Ben Cox hit 46 not out off 27 balls in an over from new England star Jofra Archer that no Rapids fan will ever forget.
“It was an amazing experience to get over the line, that over from Jofra Archer where Coxy took us over the line was a special moment and certainly the experience was the highlight of my career,” Mitchell added.
Talented all-rounder Ed Barnard was in the middle for both the quarter final win, the semi final success and the final victory.
“It’s a bit of blur to be honest, pretty surreal to think we were there and went and won those games against two quality sides,” he said.
“Even talking about it now I get goose-bumps, really pleased for Coxy because no-one deserves it more than him. It was an amazing day, truly special.”