Moeen Ali hailed Worcestershire’s Vitality Blast title win as a turning point for the county and a feather in the cap of departed director of cricket Steve Rhodes.
Moeen’s underdogs crowned their first appearance at Finals Day with a rousing victory in front of 24,500 fans at Edgbaston – sweeping aside Lancashire in the first game of the day then successfully chasing down 158 to best Sussex by five wickets in the showpiece.
The England all-rounder turned in a true captain’s performance, leading from the front with 41 runs in each match and taking combined figures of five for 46 – including three scalps in the final.
Seam prospect Pat Brown also excelled, consistently bamboozling batsmen with four miserly overs for 15 runs and finishing as the tournament’s most prolific wicket-taker with 31.
But it was Ben Cox who muscled his way to the largest share of the spotlight, taking twin man-of-the-match awards for unbeaten knocks of 55 and 46, the latter innings settling matters for the Pears in a dramatic finish.
Moeen, though, was keen to share the moment as widely as possible – including with Rhodes, who was sacked last year on disciplinary grounds after more than 30 years of service on and off the field.
“Today was special for us… but it’s more than what it meant to just a team or a group of guys,” said Moeen.
“It’s for the city, the fans, all the players, the people who work at the ground. It’s been a tough 10 years.
“I give a special mention to ‘Bumpy’ Rhodes. He put this team together and unfortunately he’s not here to see it. He brought these guys through the academy and I’m sure he’s proud to see us reaping the rewards.
“It was Bumpy who gave me the opportunity to captain this side before he left, to lead a fantastic bunch of guys with no egos.”
For Cox, his unforgettable day capped a rollercoaster week which saw him dropped from County Championship side.
“It’s been tough,” he admitted.
“As a professional you go through the highs and the lows of emotions and this week has had both. To put in two performances and help us win a trophy means the most to me.
“It was just my day for some reason.”
Losing captain Luke Wright, whose knock of 92 in the semi win over Somerset was the highest ever knock at finals day, was magnanimous in defeat.
“These are two sides who are to produce players for England and if we’re going to lose to anyone I think Worcestershire is a popular choice,” he said.
“I’ll definitely sleep tonight knowing they are a side who are trying to do it the right way. We came here without an overseas player, we chose to back our own, and I’m unbelievably proud.
“We did ourselves justice.”