by Charles Gill
Greg Smith’s sublime century was not enough to see Leicestershire Foxes over the line in a NatWest T20 Blast run-fest at Grace Road, as the Foxes to Nottinghamshire Outlaws lost by 24 runs.
Smith’s 102 from just 54 balls contained 13 fours and four sixes, but he could not inspire the Foxes to achieve their highest run chase in T20 cricket, reaching a valiant 196.
Earlier, Riki Wessels and Samit Patel both scored 60s as they blasted Nottinghamshire Outlaws to their highest ever T20 score of 220-4.
England international batsman Alex Hales set the tone for the Outlaws innings, hitting the third ball for a huge six off Jigar Naik.
Hales fell early on for 17, bowled by Ben Raine (4-0-30-1). His opening partner Phil Jaques, brought into the side due to Michael Lumb’s injury, scored 22 runs before being dismissed by the Foxes’ star bowler Naik (4-0-26-2).
Then came the electrifying partnership of Wessels and Patel which yielded 74 runs in just 48 balls. The duo made 66 and 63 respectively.
Wessels started his innings hitting Nathan Buck (4-0-60-0) for three consecutive sixes, the last of which cleared The Meet with some ease.
He later reached his 50 in just 22 balls and went on to hit four sixes and seven boundaries in his explosive innings which was ended by a Raine catch in the deep off Naik.
Leicester-born Patel’s 50 came at a slower rate, taking 34 balls. Having reached his milestone, he decide to throw the bat, but only succeeded in giving captain Josh Cobb (3-0-32-1) a wicket via a Ned Eckersley catch.
James Taylor and Chris Read finished the innings aggressively and powered the Outlaws to a commanding first innings total, scoring 18 and 22 respectively at quick rates.
Other Foxes bowling figures were: Anthony Ireland 3-0-26-0, Rob Taylor 2-0-37-0.
Leicestershire’s reply got off to a flying start with Cobb hitting three consecutive boundaries from Ajmal Shahzad and ending the first two overs 24-0.
Opening partner Niall O’Brien (9, 8b) was bowled for nine by former Fox Harry Gurney attempting a leg-side stroke after previously hitting the bowler over his head for four.
Man of the Match Smith then joined Cobb at the crease and they put on 74 runs in just 48 balls, coincidentally the same as Wessels and Patel did, and after the six over powerplay, the chasing side were 61-1.
Cobb punished the Patel when he dropped the ball short and looked to target the shorter side of the ground, before being caught by Wessels on the boundary off Shahzad for 40 (27 balls).
Wessels’ innings included that aforementioned massive six over The Meet, and Smith later matched that shot off Patel’s spin.
Smith’s innings included some fantastic improvised shots. There were scoops, reverse sweeps and switch hits from the right-handed batsman, and spectators must have been left wondering if he is ambidextrous.
When the big-hitting Tom Wells (5, 7b) departed for single figures off Sam Wood’s bowling and Taylor (3, 4b) going the same way, the Foxes' chances looked to be fading fast.
Smith continued on his merry way, leading a one-man charge against Nottinghamshire’s star-studded team as he hit more sixes into the crowd, but he eventually fell with three overs remaining and 47 runs needed. Gurney was the man to dismiss him.
Eckersley (8*, 8b) and Matthew Boyce (16*, 13b) tried their hardest at the end, but the damage was done and with 30 needed off the last over, the victory was looking improbable.
The defeat marks the Foxes' fifth straight loss in the competition but there is an immediate chance to bounce back at Durham Jets tomorrow night (5.30pm start).