Action never stops on Finals Day
It was one of the more eventful Twenty20 Finals Days I can remember as Hampshire won on their first ever appearance at Finals Day, and became the first to win the trophy at their home ground.
Wet weather had us constantly and nervously looking to the skies; a leading all-rounder was felled by a bouncer and had to be taken to hospital; a giraffe overcame slippery conditions to win the Mascots Derby; six giant bananas did a conga beneath the scoreboard; and a fire alarm meant we had to evacuate the media centre, in the middle of our live commentary.
As climaxes go, the last six balls of the final provided a denouement that Dan Brown would have been proud of.
Hampshire all-rounder Sean Ervine had just been crucially dropped following two quick wickets then, needing eight to win off the last over, both he and Dan Christian swung at thin air. Craig Kieswetter missed the stumps twice with underarm throws, and tensions mounted as an increasingly soggy ball was changed.
It came down to Hampshire needing four runs off the last two balls, although three would be enough for them to beat Somerset by virtue of losing fewer wickets, should the scores be tied.
Looking for the boundary, Dan Christian pulled Zander de Bruyn fiercely towards the fence, and Hampshire's players leapt off the bench and started celebrating. But a stunning sliding stop prevented the four - and sent the Royals skulking back to their bench.
I was positioned right next to the dug-out at this stage, microphone in hand, and it really was a privileged place to be as the tension reached ridiculous proportions and the crowd lived every moment with the home team.
Hampshire captain Dominic Cork was padded up, practising fierce shadow shots and prowling like a caged animal.
But wait! Christian was in trouble after the second run! A runner would be needed. Cue the longest build up to the final ball of a Cup final surely ever witnessed. Jimmy Adams made his way out to the middle after lengthy debate.
A member of the ground staff trotted out with a pot of white paint and yard stick to mark out a crease line for the runner. Eventually we were ready to go. Two needed for the win, although again, a single would be enough. Did the two batsmen know? Did Somerset know? Did the crowd know?
The players in the dug out certainly did, as Christian faced de Bruyn and ran a leg-bye, instinct taking over as he forgot about his runner.
A good shout for lbw was turned down by the umpire, Somerset missed a chance to run Christian out, but by now the Hampshire players had raced onto the pitch in celebration. They froze half way though, suddenly unsure of the result because Ervine wasn't celebrating. What had happened? Was the lbw good? Scores are level. Who's won?
Then the announcement came over the tannoy and the Rose Bowl went mad.
Hampshire were the underdogs at the start of the day; a team with that good old clichéd blend of youth and experience, fielding three 19-year-olds and a 20-year-old. They are led by a wiley veteran, though, in Cork, who has done a tremendous job in creating a culture of collective achievement.
They were fully justified in choosing not to use Kevin Pietersen, who said two months ago that he would not return to the Rose Bowl after his contract expired and has not featured since.
Slow left-armer Danny Briggs impressed in the semi-final, taking 3-29 against Essex, and showing a canny ability to read the game, with intelligent changes of pace and flight.
Essex will rue their batting in the second half of their innings, after Alastair Cook showed a glimpse of finding form again with 38 off 22 balls, putting on 79 with Mark Pettini for the first wicket.
The only disappointment of the day was the manner in which Nottinghamshire went out of the second semi-final. A heavy rain shower at a crucial stage of the game meant the crowd were denied what looked like being a stellar finish, with Notts chasing a revised 152 off 16 overs.
Samit Patel and Dave Hussey were batting through light drizzle and keeping Notts just ahead of the par score, when Kieron Pollard pulled off a stunning catch at long on to dismiss Patel.
By the time the skies opened five balls later, Notts had slipped slightly behind.
It was a pivotal catch from Pollard, and it ultimately ensured Somerset went into the final, but the all-rounder's night took a turn for the worse in the final, when he had to be taken to hospital after being struck in the eye by a Cork bouncer.
It was one of those nasty ones that sneaks between visor and grill, and although Pollard was eventually able to walk off the ground unaided, I could see as he walked past me into the pavilion that his right eye was closed tight with swelling, and he'd been bleeding through his nose.
He looked like a boxer who had come off second-best in a heavyweight bout. We can only hope that his sight hasn't been affected in the long term and that he makes a swift recovery.
It certainly shook up Cork who, although a feisty competitor, never wants to see people injured like that and had rushed to Pollard's aid. Somerset certainly missed his bowling in Hampshire's chase.
Another name to stand out from the day was Somerset's 19-year-old wicket keeper Jos Buttler. With Kieswetter in the team he played as a batsman only, and it was his stunning 21-ball half-century against Notts which put his side in a commanding position.
He even eclipsed Pollard, with whom he put on 72 runs in the last six overs, dispatching World Twenty20 stars Ryan Sidebottom, Dirk Nannes and Stuart Broad as if he faced them every day.
England selectors will have been watching Craig Kieswetter with interest. He has struggled for runs since the picking up the man-of-the-match award in the World Twenty20 final but finished his innings powerfully to make 71 off 59 balls.
He did miss a couple of opportunities behind the stumps as tensions cranked up at the end, but it signalled a welcome boost of confidence ahead of the one-day series with Pakistan.
It was great fun to be part of our radio coverage on 5 live sports extra once again. Phil Tufnell, Chris Adams, Shaun Udal and former New Zealand fast bowler Iain O'Brien formed our team of summarisers and throughout the day we also heard from England fast bowler Steve Finn, who was on a day out with his girlfriend but was happy to chat on our roving mic from the bar.
The players were fantastic about coming on air from pitch-side. There were such an array on big names on show and managed to hear from most of them.
The day also produced a possible radio first. Mid-way through the Nottinghamshire innings in the second semi-final the fire alarm sounded in the media centre. As good pros, we ignored it and carried on broadcasting while our producer Adam Mountford went to investigate.
Suddenly an announcement came over a speaker in our box that we were being asked to evacuate the building. I was on air at the time with Iain and we looked at each other a little unsure what to do, and began speculating as to whether Tuffers had been smoking on the stairwell like a naughty schoolboy.
I then became aware of some commotion in the box behind us, as the door opened and a couple of stewards tried to usher everybody out.
I was still trying to keep my eye on the game but realised that Iain and I were going to have to leave our commentary position too.
What to do? I knew we couldn't just put down the mics and leave the listeners with dead air. Well, we could have, but we didn't want to.
Some very quick thinking from our engineer Mike Page saved the day. I was handed the roving radio mic and Adam's clear instruction came into my headphones: "Go onto the radio mic, take off your headset, we have to go outside."
Iain had gone by this point, so I downed my headset and proceeded to describe our evacuation out of the building and onto the terrace of the stand. Fortunately we had a good view of the pitch from our new vantage point.
It certainly added to the excitement of the day, sensed by several members of the crowd who were listening to us on their portable radios and who started turning around and waving. It really is the beauty of radio that you can be so flexible in the face of such a turn of events.
We never found out what set the alarm off, but our own, thorough, internal investigation put Tuffers in the clear.