Manchester Originals 147 for 6 (Holden 37, Jacks 2-11) were defeated by Oval Invincibles 161 for 5 (Curran 67*, Neesham 57*) by 14 runs.
Tom Curran delivered men’s hundred glory to south London with a masterful all-around effort as the Oval Invincibles rallied from the verge of defeat to defeat the Manchester Originals by 14 runs and win their first men’s hundred championship.
Jimmy Neesham and Curran combined for an innings-saving stand of 127 off 65 balls, scoring 67 not out off 34 balls, Curran’s highest score of the competition. Jimmy Neesham scored 57 off 33 balls. It is impossible to overstate the significance of their partnership, which was the largest in the history of the men’s competition when they turned around a score of 34 for 5 after Jos Buttler had inserted Invincibles after winning the toss.
Considering their success in Saturday night’s Eliminator, any misgivings the Originals may have had at the halfway point would have been short-lived considering their accomplishments, which left them needing 162 to make up for their loss in the final of 2022. This was a more reasonable mountain to climb after defeating the Southern Brave by seven wickets with three balls to spare after facing a far more difficult total of 197.
The game was all but over for the Originals when their heroes from the previous night, Phil Salt (who had started that chase with 47 from 17 balls) and Buttler (who had finished it with an undefeated 82 from 46), only managed to muster 25 and 11, respectively.
It was Tom Curran who successfully extracted Salt at the conclusion of the powerplay, solidifying his claim to the Match Hero award with statistics of 1 for 25 from 20 deliveries. With the exception of a 42-run, 22-ball stand between Jamie Overton and Max Holden, the Invincibles rarely had any doubts about where the trophy would end up after that.
It should be noted that due to ailments restricting his bowling, the oldest Curran had begun the summer playing just as a hitter for Surrey in the Vitality Blast. While his 17.61 average wasn’t very impressive, his 229 runs at a strike rate of 143.12 indicated that he had shown signs of promise over the hundred innings before this blitz and that those signs had materialized. He completes the Invincibles’ season with 175 runs at a 175 strike rate.
Following successive deliveries that resulted in ducks for Jason Roy and Sam Curran, the group-stage leaders were in disarray.
When he arrived, the situation was in total disarray. The group-stage leaders were in disarray after consecutive deliveries that resulted in ducks for Jason Roy and Sam Curran (three and golden, respectively), a run-a-ball from emergency overseas Paul Stirling, a leg-side strangling of captain Sam Billings, and finally 15 off 15 from the typically deadly Will Jacks. Then came the unbelievable comeback.
Neesham established the tone by hitting two fours in as many balls off Zaman Khan’s slinging right arm before recalling his deadly strike in the World Cup Final Super Over by flicking left-arm spinner Tom Hartley into the stands beneath Old Father Time for his one and only six. But Curran was the nitrous oxide, speeding up this stand with five evenly spaced sixes over nine boundaries.
He accelerated to 36 from 18 and cleared the leg-side boundary three times off Josh Little, Jamie Overton, and Paul Walter. Off the 82nd delivery of the evening, he hit Little over deep third for his fourth and most spectacular six, bringing up his 26-ball half-century. His last, off the penultimate ball of the innings, flew Zaman back over his head as he narrowly missed his yorker, putting an end to a match-winning knock.
As the chasers found themselves on 33 for no loss, needing a further 129 from 80, Salt was as rowdy as usual for his team, making 25 from 15 as the Originals knew the powerplay was their chance to move back in front of the game. But after skewing a length ball from Tom Curran to his younger brother Sam, who tracked it from mid-off to complete the dismissal, Salt returned to the pavilion two balls later. After a restrained 11 off 15, Buttler joined him 12 deliveries later, putting his side on 44 for 2.
Danny Briggs, a left-arm spinner, caught the huge fish, which was no small accomplishment for a tournament rookie. Buttler turned around just in time to see the bails light up as his middle stump was knocked back as a tempter from around the wicket was charged and missed.
As the Originals circled the drain, Buttler became the first of three wickets to fall to spin in nine deliveries. Nathan Sowter was in the game at deep midwicket, relaying a catch back to himself as Laurie Evans attempted to place Will Jacks into the Tavern Stand. Madsen had just reversed Sowter for four when he under-edged onto his own stumps. Replays revealed that Sowter’s foot had made contact with the sponge, but only after he had already released the ball, which he later retrieved with both feet on the right side of the boundary. For a little while, it appeared as though Evans would live.
Max Holden was tenaciously fighting the squeeze at the other end, taking Sam Curran over long-on for six and then stealing back-to-back fours from Sowter to the leg side and through cover after the threatening Paul Walter had been stopped by Jacks. The ask of 59 off 25 appeared just about achievable when 15 runs were removed from Gus Atkinson’s third set, thanks to Holden using his pace to edge over third and scoop over fine leg. This was especially true given Overton’s propensity to clear the ropes.
Sam, however, struck the pads of a frantic Holden heaving across the line after Tom Curran had limited the duo to eight from balls 76 to 80. When bowler Billings requested a review after umpire Alex Wharf ruled it not out, the decision was reversed, and Holden was out for 37.
Only three more limits could be found when Overton and Hartley needed 44 from only 15. The real partying could start when Sam Curran limited Overton to twos from the opening two deliveries with 23 to defend from the final five.
The final pitch was a yorker that Hartley threw long. More heartfelt celebrations had already started among those in turquoise on the field, in the dugout, and scattered across the stands by the time he arrived at the striker’s end for a hasty single.
The Oval Invincibles are the 2023 men’s hundred champions despite having failed to go past the group rounds in the first two seasons.
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