WORCESTERSHIRE face a trip to play Surrey at The Oval a week tomorrow after reaching their fourth quarter-final since Twenty20 cricket began in 2003.
The Rapids wrapped up a 28-run victory over NatWest T20 Blast North Group cellar-dwellers Derbyshire Falcons at New Road tonight, but it was not enough to secure a home tie in the last eight as Nottinghamshire Outlaws overcame Yorkshire Vikings.
The County’s hero was Ross Whiteley as he smashed a 44-ball unbeaten 84, featuring an incredible nine sixes, against his former employers in an imposing total of 209-4.
Derbyshire made a good fist of their reply with the main contributions coming from Wayne Madsen (40), Wes Durston (36), Gareth Cross (34) and Billy Godleman (26), but Whiteley’s fireworks ensured the Rapids had enough on the board.
However, the County still needed excellent death bowling by Jack Shantry and Joe Leach to kill off the visitors’ spirited pursuit of their target with the Falcons closing on 181-7.
In-form Daryl Mitchell struck the first ball of the Rapids’ innings to the cover fence before hitting three fours in the next over.
The quick-scoring Richard Oliver was unusually subdued and miscued Greg Cork to Matt Higginbottom at cover for eight.
County’s talismanic skipper Mitchell looked in fine touch on his way to a 19-ball 36, but he was furious with himself when he tamely picked out Madsen at short mid-wicket off rookie Ben Cotton.
Kiwi blaster Colin Munro came out to face Cork, son of former England bowler Dominic, and the youngster received harsh treatment with a trio of lusty blows from the New Zealander’s blade.
However, wily Australian veteran all-rounder Marcus North saw Munro looking for his trademark reverse-sweep and fired in a full delivery to bowl the left-hander for 16.
That just brought Whiteley to the crease, though, and he launched a series of cleanly-struck maximums off the slow bowlers, soon reaching a maiden T20 half-century for Worcestershire.
Wicketkeeper Ben Cox provided fine support with 29 not out in a stand of 89 in 7.4 overs as the County posted a daunting total.
Twenty-year-old Cotton went for 56 runs from his four overs, while North (1-21) had the best figures.
Falcons’ openers North and Durston made a bright start to their reply but overseas paceman Mitchell McClenaghan (1-42) drew a false shot from his Antipodean rival, who chipped the ball to Shantry at mid-off for 18.
Derbyshire reached 57-1 at the end of the powerplay to keep up with the required rate but the lifting of the fielding restrictions, alongside the introduction of Leach and Shaaiq Choudhry (1-41), put the brakes on the visitors’ scoring.
Cross dished out punishment to Brett D’Oliveira (0-16) but Choudhry lured him into finding the safe hands of Tom Kohler-Cadmore in the deep for 34.
Durston (36) was then caught by McClenaghan off Mitchell (1-25) before Shantry (2-34) and Leach (2-22) combined to see the Rapids into the quarter-finals.
Worcestershire begin their Royal London One-Day Cup campaign on Sunday when they entertain Essex Eagles at New Road (10.30am).
They are enjoying a fine season and top LV= County Championship Division Two.