AUSTRALIAN Aaron Finch saved his best until last, but he failed to fire Yorkshire into the NatWest T20 Blast quarter-finals as his blistering 89 off 46 balls went unrewarded against Nottinghamshire at Headingley.
Finch smashed four fours and seven sixes in his best score in a Vikings shirt as the hosts amassed an imposing 200-5, which also included a superb 60 off 34 from Jonny Bairstow.
Both men reached their fifties off 27 balls before Alex Hales underpinned a thrilling response with 67 off 40 balls, including six fours and three sixes.
James Taylor hit 20 off the penultimate over from Ryan Sidebottom to leave six needed off the last and break Yorkshire’s hearts in the process.
Taylor hit 35 not out off 14 and New Zealander James Franklin 19 off as a six-wicket win was sealed with four balls to spare.
This was only right-handed opener Finch’s second fifty in ten T20 matches for the club after a similarly explosive 88 off 55 balls against Lancashire at Emirates Old Trafford last month.
This knock, his last for the county before heading home for a Cricket Australia training camp, was better.
From the moment he smashed Ajmal Shahzad’s first ball over cover for six at the start of the second over - only the second ball he faced - you just had a feeling something special was on the cards.
The world’s number rated T20 batsman peppered the boundaries at long-on and straight as the Notts attack struggled against him and, later on, Bairstow’s brilliance on a belter of a pitch.
The pair put on 81 in 7.5 overs for the third wicket and Bairstow continued the blitz following Finch’s departure, caught behind down leg off Franklin to leave the score at 132-3 in the 14th.
Bairstow and Tim Bresnan, who made 19 not out off 12, ended the innings well by sharing 42 in 4.1 overs for the fifth wicket. Unfortunately, it went unrewarded.
Hales, who posted a 30-ball half-century, and Riki Wessels (29) kept Notts interested with a second-wicket stand of 70 in eight overs, taking the score to 102-1 in the 12th before the latter fell to Azeem Rafiq.
It seemed Notts were only in this match as long as Hales, dropped twice on 26 and 48, was at the crease. But when he fell to Bresnan, caught at deep mid-wicket, the game was drifting Yorkshire’s way at 131-3 after 14.1 overs.
Some lusty hitting from Samit Patel and Taylor kept the game alive as 39 were needed off the last three.
Patel was caught at long-on for 26 off Rich Pyrah, leaving the score at 162-4 after 17.1, before Franklin hit two sixes to end the over and leave 26 needed off two.
Unfortunately for Yorkshire, that was when the game changed in a flash as Taylor hit Sidebottom for three fours and a six in four balls.
Yorkshire start their Royal London one-day Cup campaign against Lancashire at Old Trafford on Saturday (2pm).