Northants Steelbacks skipper Alex Wakely claimed his team produced ‘the perfect game’ as they dismantled NatWest T20 Blast North group rivals Birmingham Bears at Edgbaston on Friday night.
The two sides went into the game level on points at the top of the group, but a stunning bowling performance from Northants saw them restrict their hosts to just 86 for eight from their 16 overs in the rain-affected clash.
For the second match running Richard Gleeson bowled fast and straight to take three for 12 from his four overs, and there were also wickets and good performances with the ball from Graeme White, Mohammad Azharullah, Moin Ashraf and Josh Cobb.
Cobb and Ben Duckett then guided the County to an easy eight-wicket win with 21 balls to spare via the Duckworth/Lewis method, and Wakely said: “It was pretty much the perfect game for us.
“I thought last week (against Leicestershire) was the first time we had managed to string it all together, bowling well, batting well and fielding well, and we have carried that on.”
The Steelbacks enjoyed a fantastic start, with Gleeson’s opening burst returning three for six as the Bears slumped to 19 for four, and they never recovered.
“Early wickets in Twenty20 are key,” admitted Wakely.
“It’s very hard to claw it back once you lose two or three quick wickets, but it was the way we then carried it on that was so impressive for me.
“Bowling-wise we actually had a few new tricks up our sleeve that we were going to try in this game, but when we got a couple of early wickets we kept it the same.”
The Steelbacks are now two points clear of the Bears at the top of the North section, three points clear of third-placed Worcestershire Rapids with two games in hand, and four points better off than fourth-placed Notts Outlaws.
With a five-point advantage over fifth-placed Durham Jets with a game in hand, a quarter-final spot is now virtually assured, but the aim now is to secure a home clash in the last eight.
The Steelbacks are back in action on Sunday when they play struggling Derbyshire at Chesterfield (2.30pm), and Wakely is delighted with how his team is performing, and how they have handled the many injury blows they have been dealt this campaign.
“The great thing about this team at the moment is that, whereas when we won the T20 in 2013 we had the same team all the time, this season we have had lots of injuries and lots of changes and people batting out of position and bowling different overs,” said the Steelbacks captain.
“But whoever it is they have stepped up to the plate and come in and performed brilliantly.”
Bears director of cricket Dougie Brown shrugged off his side’s defeat to the Steelbacks, and put it down to a bad night at the office.
“We were 19 for four so the platform was destroyed straight away,” said Brown.
“It was a bad night, but T20 is quite a volatile game and over a block of 14 games you are going to have the occasional bad one.
“We have not played too badly in this format so far and this is a blip and one we don’t want to continue.
“This is one to forget. We just didn’t play well. It was disappointing to be a bit toothless, but we have been playing some decent cricket and just because you have had a bad one doesn’t mean you can’t get back to playing really good cricket in the next one, which is what we’ll be looking to do against Yorkshire next Friday.”