Samit Patel’s masterful century saw Nottinghamshire chase 326 to beat Northamptonshire by just one wicket at Wantage Road to secure a home semi-final in the Royal London One-Day Cup by winning the North Group.
At 116 for 5 in the 25th over, Notts were slipping to defeat but Patel made a career-best unbeaten 136 to bring the Outlaws home with three balls to spare in front of a bumper Bank Holiday crowd.
59 were needed from 30 balls and Patel stepped down the pitch to punch Josh Cobb over his head for four and cut Nathan Buck past point for his 10th boundary to go to his eighth List A century.
He cut Ben Sanderson just past the wicketkeeper for another boundary and punched the same bowler over his head. Another edge, trying to cut Buck, flew over the wicketkeeper again to leave 12 needed from the final over. Patel heaved Sanderson over square leg for six, drove a boundary past point and lifted the winning runs over the same fielder.
Patel said: "I was due for a score and needed a score really, just to put to rest a few people who might have been thinking I was past it - but I’m back.
"I think in this day and age you can score 100 from the last 10 overs and all through that was my target, ideally with wickets in hand.
"I thought Tom (Moores) took it to them and there was a shift in momentum when he was going. His was a great knock and he’ll learn a lot from that.
"I always had faith and every one of us in that dressing room had the belief that we can knock those runs off, regardless of what situation we were in and we did it and can look forward to Sunday now."
Tom Moores also played an important part in the comeback sharing 111 with Patel for the sixth wicket. With 139 needed in 15 overs, Moores heaved Ian Holland for consecutive sixes over long-on in making 69 from 55 balls before swinging Sanderson to deep midwicket.
Before that partnership, Notts looked destined for the play-offs as the top-order all failed. Alex Hales, on his comeback after his suspension for a second failed drugs test, crashed several cuts either side of point but attempting to guide Luke Procter to third man, chopped into his own stumps for 36 and left Notts 74 for 4 in the 15th over.
That was after Sanderson nipped a delivery through Joe Clarke to take out his off stump for 7, Chris Nash clipped Nathan Buck to short midwicket and next ball Ben Duckett, back at his former home, tried to turn to his first ball to leg and got a leading edge that looped to midwicket.
But Patel’s tremendous innings ensured Notts are now just one win away from a return to Lord’s, earning a home semi-final back at Trent Bridge on Sunday.
For most of the day, Northants looked like claiming an impressive consolation victory. Four players went past fifty after they won the toss but none converted their position into an innings of real damage and they were left short of power in the final overs.
Patel claimed two of the half-centurions as Cobb lifted him to long-off for 63 - his third fifty in the competition. He and Ricardo Vasconcelos made steady progress for the second wicket in a stand of 117 in 19.5 overs.
Vasconcelos pulled James Pattinson and swept Patel among his four boundaries in his 60-ball fifty and generally worked the bowling around with good purpose. But trying to reverse-sweep Patel, was lbw for 74 and walked off with several meaty slaps of bat on pad, all too aware of his error.
From 160 for 3 in the 31st over, Rob Keogh and Alex Wakely picked the innings up, injecteing urgency in adding 96 in 12.2 overs.
Wakely was first to his fifty - his third of the tournament - in 38 balls with four fours and a lofted drive for six against Matt Carter’s off-spin. But he chipped a Pattinson slower ball to deep-midwicket for 53. And Keogh made a run-a-ball fifty before carving Jake Ball to deep cover to fall for 71.