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Notts close in on last eight

Nottinghamshire Outlaws overcame a stuttering display with the bat to put themselves on the brink of the NatWest T20 Blast quarter-finals with a 31-run victory over Leicestershire Foxes at Trent Bridge.

After posting only 121 for nine, having chosen to bat first, the home side bounced back ruthlessly to bowl Leicestershire out for just 90 in 18.3 overs.

Notts struggled to find any momentum in their innings and were indebted to a score of 44 from Samit Patel to set any sort of total, but it proved to be more than competitive as the Foxes' reply started dreadfully.

Requiring just over a run a ball, the visitors lost five wickets in the powerplay before eventually succumbing for their lowest total in the competition.

The manner of the defeat was particularly hard on the Leicestershire attack, with both Josh Cobb and Atif Sheikh returning outstanding figures.

Cobb, the Foxes skipper, finished with 3-18 after Sheikh had denied the Outlaws their usual fast start, bowling his four overs straight off to claim 2-11.

Sheikh, 23, born in Nottingham and a former player with the Trent Bridge junior sides, returned to the city to knock back the stumps of Michael Lumb and Alex Hales with his brisk left-arm.

Charlie Shreck, a seasoned veteran with even stronger Nottinghamshire connections, relished the opportunity of playing against one of his former sides and also picked up a wicket in the early stages, removing Riki Wessels lbw.

Notts lost wickets at regular intervals and also went 11 overs without finding the boundary, a sequence eventually broken by Patel, who hoisted Jigar Naik straight down the ground for the only six of the innings.

Patel was eventually run out in the mad scramble for late runs but the innings ended in a real whimper as Cobb accounted for both Ajmal Shahzad and Luke Fletcher with the final two deliveries.

The Outlaws’ response was clinical. Fletcher bowled a double-wicket maiden, accounting for both Cobb and Greg Smith. The latter had scored a century when the sides met at Grace Road last month and his dismissal inspired the hosts.

A stunning boundary catch by James Franklin, looking into the sun as he ran round, accounted for Niall O'Brien and was followed up by more individual brilliance as Steven Mullaney ran out Ned Eckersley with a direct-hit.

When Shahzad removed the dangerous Scott Styris the board read 24 for five. Although Tom Wells and Matt Boyce added 21 together, they fell, along with Naik, in a disastrous seven-ball spell.

Some late resistance saw Shreck swing Gurney over the deep midwicket fence and Sheikh demonstrated that he has something to offer with the bat as well, twice hitting Mullaney for six.

Sheikh was last out, heaving across the line to Fletcher, who impressed with 3-11.

The victory takes Notts back to second position in the North Group, needing just one more point from either of their two final games, away at Northants Steelbacks and Yorkshire Vikings, to guarantee a place in the knockout stages.

Leicestershire remain eighth, with only pride to play for as they travel to Edgbaston to face Birmingham Bears on Friday.

Fletcher was delighted with the win and pleased to get the crucial wicket of Smith early on.

He said: "I'll always back myself to bowl a yorker and if I can put it up there then they shouldn't be able to hit me away for runs.

"In my first over I just tried to put it good areas and they both nicked off. Getting Smith early was so crucial.

"It's going for me at the moment and long may it continue. We're just taking it game by game but we're confident as a bowling unit that we'll always get the job done."

Leicestershire director of cricket Phil Whitticase said: "Obviously we're disappointed. We felt that keeping them to 121 was more than acceptable.

"We talked about it at the interval, about the need to keep calm. Notts' only chance at that stage was to bowl us out.

"It has always been our way to try and go hard in the first six overs but to win that game it should have been a different approach today.

"We lost a couple of early wickets and should have tried to drag it back by limiting the damage but we kept going and lost more wickets."

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