First Team Coach Alex Gidman said it is “a wonderful feeling” for holders Worcestershire Rapids to have clinched a return to Vitality Blast finals day.
The Rapids made sure of a place at the Edgbaston showpiece on September 21 via an eight wicket triumph over Sussex Sharks in the quarter-final at the 1st Central County Ground, Hove.
A brilliant century by Moeen Ali and more responsible batting Riki Wessels in a stand of 177 – a County second wicket record in T20 cricket – saw the Rapids over the line.
But the bowlers also played a full part with Moeen himself and Ed Barnard dragging back the Sharks during the middle overs after they had been given a flying start by Phil Salt and Luke Wright.
Gidman told BBC Hereford-Worcester’s Dan Wheeler: “It is a great night for the club, a great night for the players after some very special performances, individual performances but also a lot of the team performance as well was outstanding – and what a wonderful feeling to be going back to finals day again.
“We’ve got a chance. That’s all we wanted to do, to stay in the competition for as long as possible and, if that means we end up with a crack at it, then happy days.
“It is a massive win and it gets us to finals day where anything can happen as we learnt last year.
“We’ve obviously had a tough red ball campaign and it gives us something to be really excited about and remain focused about.
“Those red ball games coming up become really important because the lads need to keep their rhythm.
“Having said that, we can play those games knowing that we’ve got that really amazing day to look forward to.
“This competition is so tough that the four teams who get there, genuinely deserve to get there.
“We know whoever we play against is going to be a very good team but we are a very good team.
“We will respect the opposition, as we always do, but we will focus on our own performances and if we perform near to what our full potential is, we know we will have a good chance.”
On the performance against the Sharks, Gidman said: “It was an outstanding win in the end. We had to work really hard for it, particularly with the ball and then that partnership (between Moeen Ali and Riki Wessels) was just pure class – professional and great execution.
“Sussex are a great team but when you get into knockout cricket, it just takes a couple of amazing performances and that’s what we got today on our side and we will travel back with a big grin on our face and looking forward to a couple of week’s time.”
Moeen Ali smashed 11 sixes in his unbeaten 121.
Gidman said: “He is a brilliant, world class player. You don’t know play as much international cricket as he has, and franchise cricket around the world, without being very, very good.
“I’ve said a number of times now that he is very inspirational for our group, a wonderful leader, and he is just really good to watch.
“The Sussex supporters, although disappointed to have lost, have seen a wonderful innings of pure class.”
Wessels repeated the kind of responsible knock he had demonstrated when playing alongside Moeen in the win over Birmingham Bears at Edgbaston.
He was finally dismissed for 47 off 46 balls with the Rapids just six runs short of victory after another key contribution.
Gidman said: “You need that experience. I think they know how to play with each other. When Mo is hitting it as well as he is, just let him do it.
“Riki was very clever at getting off strike and hit the boundaries when he needed to. There were a couple of overs where Riki took that pressure off. He had a couple of overs when he scored 12-14 runs.
“It was a very smart innings, very calm, very calculated and a high level of execution from both of them.”
Gidman added: “I would add that the bowlers did a really good job to get us that score we thought was gettable.
“At one stage it looked like they were going to get over 200 and, daft as it sounds, 200 was probably about par.”
Charlie Morris was brought into the T20 side for the Rapids for the first time in three years.
Gidman said: “Mozza has been our team player of the year. He has been in most squads. He hasn’t played all of the cricket but when we’ve called upon him, he has done a good job.
“We’ve obviously had a tough time with illness, injuries and international commitments so we’re down to the bare bones and Mozza has come in and done an outstanding job.
“He works extremely hard all the time so you know he is never going to be far off. He is a very reliable cricketer and an important part of our whole group.“