Trent Rockets spinners defend 123 after D’Arcy Short’s 69 puts game beyond Spirit

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Trent Rockets spinners defend 123 after D’Arcy Short’s 69 puts game beyond Spirit

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Carter, Patel, Rashid the heroes with the ball as Eoin Morgan’s men come unstuck

Trent Rockets 123 for 4 (Short 69*) beat London Spirit 116 (Carter 3-17, Patel 3-20, Khan 2-13) by seven runs

Trent Rockets survived a late assault from Roelof van der Merwe and Blake Cullen to claim their third win in a row in the men’s Hundred. D’Arcy Short‘s unbeaten 69 had held the Rockets innings together after they were inserted by Eoin Morgan at the toss, and eight wickets shared between the spinners, Samit Patel, Matt Carter and Rashid Khan, helped keep London Spirit’s chase at arm’s length.

Despite scoring at barely above a run a ball throughout their innings, Short pounced at the death to bring up a 41-ball fifty and then take 18 from Chris Wood’s last five – a flurry that was ultimately the difference between the sides. After 90 balls, Rockets were 96 for 4, while Spirit were 98 for 8, and despite the efforts of Cullen in hitting Marchant de Lange for six and four to bring the requirement down to 10 from four, the visiting side had just about enough.

Tiring surfaces have been a feature of the men’s games and Spirit were kept in check by spin throughout their chase. Carter removed three of the top four, with Rashid constricting the middle period of the innings during a boundary-free allocation of 2 for 13 from 20. Spirit’s biggest partnership was 28 for the eighth wicket and although van der Merwe dragged them close with an inventive 25 from 18, de Lange held his nerve to concede just a leg bye and a single from the last four balls.

Warne puts his spin on it
Less London Spirit, more the spirit of Shane Warne, the men’s head coach at Lord’s. Warne opted against including Mason Crane for Spirit’s opening defeat away to Birmingham Phoenix, but gave him the nod here – an attacking selection, since he was replacing the batter Dan Lawrence – and Morgan’s side then stuck to a gameplan that had Warne’s fingerprints on it. After five perfunctory deliveries of seam from Mohammad Amir the next 40 balls were bowled by spinners, as the hybrid surface began to offer grip for Nabi, Crane and van der Merwe.

With a short boundary towards the Grandstand, there was always the danger of one of the slow men being collared – but Nabi delivered his 20 balls of offspin from the Pavilion End inside the first 45, while Crane and van der Merwe were deployed from the Nursery End, both bowling twin sets of ten that encouraged batters to hit against the spin if they wanted to take the more enticing aerial route. Although van der Merwe took some tap in the Powerplay, the three spinners conceded just seven boundaries between them and left Rockets a sickly 83 for 4 after 80.

Short grinds it out
After the struggles of his first trip to the IPL in 2018, when he scored 115 runs in seven innings at a strike rate of 116.16, Short might not have been the player you would expect to build an innings on a worn, increasingly spin-friendly surface. But while Short scores quicker against pace than he does spin in T20 (136.98 versus 132.27), he has a good average against slow bowling and showed the experience here to almost single-handedly lift Rockets to a competitive total.

After seeing Alex Hales depart for 21 from 14 trying to lift the tempo early on, Short seemed to opt for the long game, picking off boundaries here and there to become the first opener to bat through a full 100 balls. He picked his battles sensibly, taking four singles from seven balls of Nabi’s offspin, and eight runs from eight Crane deliveries, while targeting van der Merwe’s left-arm spin (17 off nine). With Rockets still looking a little queasy, at 103 for 4 from 95, he then carved out four boundaries from Wood’s final set – finishing with a cool reverse-ramp over the keeper – and effectively took the game out of Spirit’s reach.

Get Carter
Carter had played a big part in Rockets’ stunning win over Northern Superchargers earlier in the week – taking 2 for 17 and whacking 13 off 8 at the death after coming into the side for Steven Mullaney. The giant offspinner well knows the role of bowling within the Powerplay from his time with reigning Blast champions Nottinghamshire, and alongside county team-mate Patel helped put the skids under Spirit at the start of their chase.

Adam Rossington, into the side in place of absent Test batter Zak Crawley, opened the door with a poor shot to pick out deep square leg from Carter’s first ball. Spirit then sent in Nabi, who had batted at No. 7 in their opening encounter, presumably to try and target the ball spinning into him – but after clearing the long boundary for six out towards the Mound Stand, as Carter embarked on a tenner from the Pavilion End, he miscued a drive to mid-off. Patel then had Josh Inglis caught behind, as Spirit slipped to 29 for 3 inside the Powerplay.

Later in the innings, as the game began to slide away from the home side, Patel was left on a hat-trick by a brilliant reaction catch at slip. The fielder in question throwing himself down to pouch Wood’s edge in his right hand? Matt Carter.

Rockets fire
One of the terms that has been bandied around with the advent of the Hundred is “front-loading”: the idea that you push your best performers to the front, either with bat or ball, to put immediate pressure on the opposition. But such were the depth of options available to Lewis Gregory that he was able to do the opposite here, holding back de Lange – the tournament’s leading wicket-taker – until the ninth set of five and utilising Rashid in calculated bursts.

With Short’s left-arm wristspin employed to good effect, Gregory did not need to bowl himself or Timm van der Gugten, who came into the side as Joe Root’s replacement, while Luke Wood bowled just five deliveries with the new ball. The plan almost backfired, with de Lange expensive at the death, but Rockets look to have plenty of bases covered after moving to the top of the standings with three wins from three.

Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick

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