South Northumberland rolled back the years to be crowned NatWest Club T20 champions for 2017 under the floodlights at the 3aaa County Ground in Derby.
The Gosforth-based club were the first national T20 champions when the competition was introduced in 2008, and beat the 2012 and 2013 champions Wimbledon by seven wickets in a heavyweight final.
Simon Birtwistle was the man of the match, taking three for 23 with his left-arm spin, and then top-scoring with 47 as they added the T20 title to the longer-form Royal London National Club Championship they won last September.
Wimbledon had won the toss but struggled to 117 all out, with Jonny Wightman claiming three for 18 and former Australia international Marcus North taking two for 20 with his canny off-spin.
North fell for 16 in the sixth over of the Bulls’ reply, but Birtwistle kept them on course, and wicketkeeper Rob Peyton steered them home with an unbeaten 37 – although it was captain Adam Cragg who applied a spectacular finish by hitting the second ball of the last over for six.
South Northumberland had beaten the Cannock and Rugeley Hawks in the day’s first semi-final, with John Graham’s unbeaten 56 proving the match-winning innings.
Omar Ali, a left-hander who played some shots offering more than a hint of his elder brother Moeen, led the chase with 47, but the Hawks fell 17 runs short.
Then Wimbledon had a convincing eight-wicket victory over Clifton in the second semi, restricting the Salford club to 94 for seven – after Angus Boobbyer claimed the key wicket of the former Lancashire wicketkeeper-batsman Gareth Cross, snapped up by the former Warwickshire player Jonathon Webb at short extra cover.
Nick Welch, a 19-year-old from Zimbabwe who has been playing for Surrey’s second team this summer, made short work of the modest chase with a rapid 60.
“We didn’t get enough runs and struggled against their spinners,” Cross reflected afterwards. “But we’ve done well to get here, because we’re a much smaller club than a couple of these, and it’s been a great day for the club.”
Speaking after the final, man of the match Birtwistle said: “I got to these finals three times with Chester-le-Street without winning, so it’s very sweet to win it tonight.
“I think north-east cricket is very strong. We’ve got some really good sides who generally do well in these competitions.
“I was in the Durham academy – the same year as Michael Gough, and with John Graham as well – played some second team and went to Leeds-Bradford Uni – my last year was the first of the programme.
“John played brilliantly in our semi-final win. Character wins these games.”
Aaron Campbell, the ECB’s Competitions Manager, added: “Congratulations to South Northumberland and the other three teams for reaching Finals Day and providing another excellent day of cricket. I’m sure all four teams would share our appreciation of the Derbyshire club and especially their groundstaff for allowing us to beat the weather.”
Previous NatWest Club T20 winners
2008 – South Northumberland
2009 – Bournemouth
2010 – Swardeston
2011 – Ealing
2012 – Wimbledon
2013 – Wimbledon
2014 – Chester Boughton Hall
2015 – Ealing
2016 – Swardeston