Northamptonshire Steelbacks require a favour from the Leicestershire Foxes if they are to have any chance of progressing to the quarter-finals of the Natwest t20 Blast.
If their neighbours are defeated at Trent Bridge on Sunday then Kyle Coetzer’s side, barring a mathematical miracle, will see their defence of the title ended with two group games remaining.
This is because they suffered a 31-run reverse at the hands of the Worcestershire Rapids, a result that, with three wins needed from their remaining three games, has done them no good at all.
On a sultry evening after the visitors had won the toss, Richard Oliver, rather astonishingly, lofted the first ball of the game from Matt Spriegel to long-off to give the hosts an ideal start and it got better before the powerplay overs were out as Tom Kohler-Cadmore’s frenetic jaunt ended when the same bowler had him stumped.
The 50 mark was passed just before the fielders could spread out and Daryl Mitchell then edged Steven Crook behind from the next ball.
The second wicket to fall had brought in Colin Munro and the New Zealander set about his task in carefree style.
Swinging hard and switch-hitting with the spin with impunity, including one flat six over cover, Munro pushed the rate up to an acceptable level and looked capable of inflicting some real damage.
After some smart work from Crook had run out Ross Whiteley, Ben Cox had provided an ideal foil to the left-handed Munro and the pair were steering the Rapids up to a significant total.
They had added 49 in a fraction over four overs when the hosts put a spanner in the works.
Munro pushed Willey into the offside and called a single but the bowler, who intercepted the ball very quickly, was able to turn and throw down the stumps at the non-striker’s end.
Joe Leach followed shortly after as he was bowled by Middlebrook and that left Cox, with a best ever Twenty20 score of 46, in charge of ensuring something defendable was posted.
An inability to find the boundary, not lacking earlier in the piece, and the loss of three wickets in the final over meant the final tally of 162-9 wasn’t as substantial as it should’ve been.
But it still takes some getting - scoreboard pressure and all that - and Richard Levi and Willey provided a solid enough beginning and had wiped 42 off the target before the latter was bowled by Leach in the sixth over.
At the conclusion of the powerplay, the equation stood at 115 needed from 84 balls which most sides would, and should, fancy but the balance of power altered slightly as both Levi and Kyle Coetzer fell to Shaaiq Choudhry’s left-arm spin.
Crook departed in Mitchell’s first over to thicken the plot some more and heaped more responsibility on Adam Rossington’s shoulders.
The loanee carted a couple of sixes in typically muscular style but an attempt too many saw him trapped in front by Mitchell who got rid of Rob Newton in the same over to stiffen the ask further.
At this point they were heading down but that became out in Mitchell’s next over.
Ben Duckett had already sliced Mitchell McClenaghan to deep point and when the captain, who finished with a club record 5-28, dismissed Middlebrook and Spreigel in the same over, the game was done and dusted.