Ballance blasts Yorkshire to first finals day
Yorkshire reached Friends Life t20 finals day for the first time thanks to a stunning display of power hitting that saw off Worcestershire by 29 runs at Headingley Carnegie.
The North Group winners smashed 72 from the last four overs - Joe Root and David Miller both passed fifty before Gary Ballance bludgeoned four maximums in the final set of six - to post a highly competitive total of 212 for five.
Phil Hughes - the competition’s leading run scorer - tried his best to keep the Royals up with the rate, but his unbeaten 80 from 53 balls was in vain as the visitors ended on 183 for six and missed out on a maiden finals day appearance.
A mix-up in the opening over brought an early breakthrough for Worcestershire as Phil Jaques found himself stranded in the middle of the wicket and was duly run out by wicketkeeper Ben Scott.
Despite the early setback, Andrew Gale and new man Root found regular boundaries on a flat pitch as they built a 59-run partnership inside the first seven overs, before Yorkshire's skipper was caught and bowled by Daryl Mitchell for 30.
Root was dropped on 40 but this did not faze the youngster, who has been included in England’s provisional 30-man squad for the World Twenty20 in September, and he went on to secure his first fifty in the shortest form this term from 36 balls.
He hit three more fours off Aneesh Kapil, but the bowler finally got his man, holding a good high catch as Root departed for 65.
Ballance joined South Africa one-day international David Miller at the crease and they began to up the run-rate, hitting back-to-back sixes off Moeen Ali and then Shantry as the 17th over went for 26.
Miller continued his lusty striking and cruised to 50 from 23 balls, but it was Ballance who took the game away from the Royals, smashing 25 from the final over to walk off with an unbeaten 46 to his name.
The Worcestershire reply started brightly but the introduction of Mitchell Starc, the man currently topping the domestic wickets chart, brought the early dismissal of Vikram Solanki.
The visitors were 20 for two when Richard Pyrah had Moeen caught at mid-off for 17, leaving Hughes and James Cameron to begin a rebuilding job that left the Royals on course at the halfway stage.
Their 75-run partnership was brought to an end by an amazing piece of fielding as Root caught the ball on the boundary, threw it back as momentum took him over the rope and watched Miller calmly collect to remove Cameron for 29.
Hughes brought up his half-century, but partner Gareth Andrew fell to Rafiq for 27 to end a 48-run stand. The subsequent task of 64 from the final four overs proved as improbable as it sounded.