Eoin Morgan’s London Spirit side were unbeaten. Four wins out of four and flying.
That was until a world-class talent brought them down on Saturday night at Trent Bridge.
On a ground renowned for big hitting, Rashid Khan claimed three wickets as Trent Rockets leapfrogged Spirit, winning by six wickets to go top of the men’s table.
It was not just the wickets, but the style of the dismissals that thrilled the crowd.
The leg spinner clean bowled Dan Lawrence, Kieron Pollard and Jordan Thompson as Rockets bowled Spirit out for 122 – their lowest total of the tournament – before the hosts chased down the target with ease.
“He is a superstar,” said former England bowler Dominic Cork on Sky Sports. “The way he plays, the way he bowls.”
Rashid, one of the most sought-after franchise cricketers in the world, learned his trade as a refugee in Peshawar in Pakistan, after his family fled across the Afghanistan border after the US invasion.
He played with taped tennis balls against his brothers on concrete surfaces but by the age of 17 he had made his international debut – and at 18 was signed up for the glamour of the Indian Premier League.
Now 23, he remains a livewire, bringing energy and entertainment to any game he plays, including in Nottingham.
The men’s Hundred has drifted at times this year, perhaps because of a series of injuries to other players, but with Rashid in town, it sparkled.
He was first given the ball shortly after the powerplay – the first 25 balls of an innings. England international Lawrence charged down the wicket and was deceived by Rashid. The stumps lit up.
Out came Spirit captain Eoin Morgan – who famously hit 17 sixes against Rashid’s Afghanistan in the 2019 World Cup – and showed his quality, taking on the bowler, smashing him for two consecutive sixes.
It was a reminder of Rashid’s only previous game in this year’s Hundred against Birmingham Phoenix, when Liam Livingstone launched a brutal assault and smashed him for three consecutive sixes.
Even the best can get taken down – but this time Rashid responded perfectly.
Morgan fell to fellow spinner Samit Patel and in came West Indies superstar Kieron Pollard. Rashid had five deliveries remaining and Rockets captain Lewis Gregory turned to his prized weapon again – the game finely poised with Spirit 95-4 and 30 balls left.
With the first of his five, Rashid did for Pollard, getting the ball to turn away from the right hander and crash into his stumps.
It was the crucial moment and a brilliant delivery but still Rashid was not done.
With his last ball, Jordan Thompson was bowled around his legs.
“This is what resilience in this format looks like. World class bowling,” said former England batter Ebony Rainford-Brent on Sky Sports.
“There was a period at the start where he was getting attacked by Morgan. There was a danger he would fall away but he just came back and back and back. It doesn’t matter if he gets pumped. He reset himself and came back.”
Speaking to BBC Sport, England and Birmingham Phoenix bowler Kirstie Gordon added: “He’s so difficult to play. He’s always changing it up and is always on top of the batter.
“He comes with that presence now.”
Sadly for the Rockets – and the tournament as a whole – Rashid’s presence will not be felt in the tournament for another year. He will miss the remainder of the Hundred as he heads to the Asia Cup in the United Arab Emirates to play for his country.
But on a sunny night in Nottingham, he served a sweet reminder as to why he was the first pick in the first player draft for The Hundred and showed exactly why he is a joy he is to watch.
A global superstar. A box office attraction. A master of his craft.