Dubai: A fine unbeaten half-century from Harry Finch and a stellar all-round effort from skipper Rory Hamilton-Brown helped the Sussex Sharks beat the MCC by 12 runs in the final of the Emirates Airline Twenty20 at the Sevens on Friday night.
The win secured a historic hat-trick of titles for Sussex, who had earlier beaten the Lancashire Lightning in the semi-finals.
Chasing 151 to win, the MCC finished on 138 for 5 from their allotted 20 overs. Ollie Rayner’s backs-to-the-wall 50 not out wasn’t enough for them in the ultimate analysis, as the Muttiah Muralitharan-led MCC side failed to break Sussex’s stranglehold on the event.
Rory Hamilton-Brown set MCC’s chase back early, dismissing the hero of the MCC’s semi-final win over the Yogi Group KPL XI, Luis Reece, in the very first over.
Samit Patel and Sam Robson tried to keep their side strongly in the hunt, combining for 35 brisk runs at a run-a-ball.
Steffan Piolet, who was introduced in the 10th over, saw Prasanna Jayawardene being dropped off his bowling before sending him back a few balls later thanks to a great catch by Sussex wicketkeeper Ben Brown.
With uneven bounce coming into the picture on a track that was seeing a third straight match being staged on it, the MCC found themselves in a spot of bother at 62/3 at the halfway mark, still needing 89 to win from 10 overs.
Wickets kept tumbling at regular intervals thereafter, with Hamilton-Brown first accounting for Samit Patel, who had fought gamely and scored three boundaries in his 26.
And when Daniel Bell-Drummond was dismissed in the 16th over, the MCC’s chances of winning looked bleak at 90 for five.
Former Sussex man Ollie Rayner, however, refused to give up, smashing five fours and a six towards the end of the game.
However, his efforts would go in vain. Rayner brought up a well-deserved half-century off the last ball of the tournament, but Sussex were the side smiling at the end as Jon Lewis defended the 28 runs he needed to in the last over.
Four dropped chances didn’t prove costly for Sussex, whose consistency in all departments brought them the much-cherished silverware once again.
Earlier, after winning the toss and opting to bat first, Sussex were jolted early on by rival pacers Kyle Hogg and Harry Gurney. At 18 for 2 in the fourth over and with both openers Matt Machan and Ben Brown already back in the pavilion, they were in danger of surrendering the early advantage and initiative they had gained by taking first strike on a slowly deteriorating surface.
However, Harry Finch and Matt Prior came to the party at just the right time for Sussex, featuring in a critical 65-run stand for the third wicket. Prior would eventually fall for 35 to Muttiah Muralitharan, who otherwise didn’t trouble the batmen much on the night; but by then the England international had provided the impetus to the innings, sending the ball thrice to the fence.
Finch and Hamilton-Brown then made sure the momentum wouldn’t flag post Prior’s departure, compiling an unbroken — and as it proved, match-winning — partnership of 67 for the fourth wicket.
Finch brought up his half-century off 46 balls with a single off Samit Patel. He had looked impressive all through his innings, and was particularly impressive against the spinners, who he carted all over the park by using his feet nimbly.
Hamilton-Brown, at the other end, profited from a couple of dropped chances, as the MCC fielders started to lose the ball in the lights in the twilight hours.
He made the MCC pay for its largesse, bringing out the ramp-shots and big straight hits towards the end, as he and Finch powered the Sussex Sharks to a challenging 150/3 from their allotted 20 overs — a total that was sufficient to once again bring them crowning glory.
Sussex 150 for 3 (20 overs): Harry Finch 62 not out, Rory Hamilton-Brown 37 not out; Harry Gurney 1 for 21, Kyle Hogg 1 for 22
MCC 138 for 5 (20 overs): Ollie Rayner 50 not out, Samit Patel 26; Rory Hamilton-Brown 2/19, Steffan Piolet 2/24
Result: Sussex won by 12 runs.