Steelbacks’ reign as Blast champions is ended by the Outlaws

Steven Crook took 3-19 from four excellent overs against the Outlaws
Steven Crook took 3-19 from four excellent overs against the Outlaws

Northamptonshire Steelbacks’ final home Natwest t20 Blast outing of the season ended in defeat as Nottinghamshire Outlaws secured a 22-run victory at the County Ground.

That leaves a dead rubber at Durham on Friday evening for Kyle Coetzer’s men who were second best against a visiting side who should fancy their chances of going all the way.

It was a performance that was typical of the campaign as a whole, with periods of promise but ultimately not enough to come away with the spoils and it pours cold water on any lingering hopes they had of somehow reaching the knockout stages and defending the title claimed 12 months ago.

Having won the toss and elected to bat on a fresh surface, the Outlaws made a typically explosive start.

Steven Mullaney, opening in place of the injured Michael Lumb, took a quartet of boundaries of David Willey’s first over - the second of the innings and Alex Hales wasted little time as he drilled his fourth ball from Olly Stone into the top tier of the member’s pavilion.

A second maximum followed, this one struck baseball-style over midwicket off Willey, but his fun ended shortly after the 50 had been brought up as an attempted pull off Steven Crook resulted in his stumps being rattled.

Mullaney picked out fine leg in Muhammad Azharullah’s initial offering straight after the powerplay had concluded and this led to a period of consolidation with both Riki Wessels and Samit Patel relatively circumspect.

Three figures arrived in the 13th over which is fairly standard fare and James Middlebrook’s appearance in the attack was the signal for the acceleration to start.

Willey’s forgettable night with the ball - he leaked 49 in three overs including 20 from his third - bled into the field as he spilled Wessels at long-on when the former County man had 47.

That became a good 30-ball 50 a delivery later and with Patel playing the silent partner, the duo realised their 100 partnership from 66 balls.

Patel promptly located long-on and James Franklin skied to Ben Duckett as Crook, by some distance the pick of the attack, finished with 3-19 from his allocation.

Wessels’ stint then came to a close on 64 as he edged an Azharullah slower ball behind and Chris Read missed a straight one in the same over.

Theses four wickets in under two overs kept the total in check and rather than something closing in on 200, the end result was a much more chaseable 174-6.

It didn’t look promising three overs into the reply with both Willey, his dreadful evening ending with a swipe at Ajmal Shahzad ending in cover point’s hands, and Richard Levi, caught behind from the next ball, back in the pavilion.

Adam Rossington didn’t last too long as he played six and out to James Franklin, lofting the New Zealander over midwicket before giving long-off catching practice.

Crook located the middle of the bat straight away and with Coetzer going nicely at the other end the midway point of the chase saw the score at 64-3.

An equation of 111 from 60 deliveries is by no means an impossibility in these days of inflated strike rates and this had been reduced further and to within the realms of merely difficult when Crook failed to clear Wessels at long-on.

Coetzer continued to a 36-ball 50, his highest Twenty20 score of the year, and while he was there the hosts’ hopes, while slim, were still alive.

But a superb over from Harry Gurney, the 18th of the innings, which went for five and included the wicket of Coetzer for 67, put the final nail into the coffin of the home side.