Four on the trot as Steelbacks slay Sussex

Three early wickets from Steven Crook played a crucial part in the Steelbacks' victory at Arundel

Three early wickets from Steven Crook played a crucial part in the Steelbacks' victory at Arundel

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Northamptonshire won their fourth game in a row and moved up to second in Group A of the Yorkshire Bank 40 after a 63-run defeat of Sussex at Arundel Castle.

A terrific start with the ball - the hosts were reduced to 7-4 at one stage - proved to be the decisive factor in a performance that was efficient and symptomatic of a team riding a wave of confidence that arrives courtesy of good results.

With Nottinghamshire still in control of the group, any potential progression could depend on how others fare elsewhere but while a semi-final place is a good deal of cricket away, it has to better chasing that than scrambling around among the also-rans.

As is generally the case on outgrounds, the pitch was of the slow variety and this was reflected in how the innings unfolded.

Only 13 boundaries were hit in the 39 overs - 234 deliveries if you like - which, with the ball not beating the bat that frequently, is as good an indication as you’ll get with regard to the conditions.

Alex Wakely, who seems to be a completely different animal in coloured clothes, again led the way with a measured 69 and he was well supported by Ben Duckett who weighed in with a run-a-ball 47.

But there were few other decent contributions as the home attack proved difficult to get away especially Lewis Hatchett and Will Beer with the pair’s respective left-arm seam and leg-spin serving up decent spells.

Both David Willey and Kyle Coetzer fell to Chris Nash’s off-spin after a solid if unremarkable opening and when Rob Keogh, needlessly run out after a slight mix-up with Wakely, and Matt Spriegel, lbw reverse sweeping, departed the score read a middling 95-4 at almost the halfway stage.

Steven Crook lofted Beer to deep midwicket after a short stay to leave Wakely and Duckett to stage a repair job which they did to good effect.

Called up at the last minute to replace the injured David Sales, Duckett, for all his lack of power which limits the areas in which he can hit boundaries, rotated the strike well and accelerated when necessary.

That meant a competitive total of 191-6 which would’ve looked far more substantial after four overs when the scoreboard displayed a sickly 1-3.

Chris Nash’s stumps were rattled and Luke Wells was hit in front, both to Crook, with Luke Wright’s lobbing to gully off Willey sandwiched in between.

Ed Joyce, flummoxed by Crook’s slower ball, followed minutes later and those of a cynical persuasion - okay, this particular writer - thought an imitation of Essex’s calamitous 20 all out in the week might be on the cards.

A brief recovery of sorts between Michael Yardy and Rory Hamilton-Brown made a mockery of that idea but the total exceeded that by a dozen before the latter fell to Lee Daggett.

The expected resistance arrived with the introduction of Ben Brown and he and Yardy steered Sussex into calmer waters ahead of a final skirmish.

While the former England man was in there was hope but a heave at Willey towards the vacant midwicket area backfired and all hope of what would have been a remarkable comeback evaporated.