Steelbacks squander strong start as Rapids race to victory

David Willey again top scored for the Steelbacks
David Willey again top scored for the Steelbacks
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Northamptonshire’s well-constructed Twenty20 bubble had to be popped at some stage and that is what transpired at New Road.

The Worcestershire Rapids, so named because of the flooding issues their headquarters has endured in recent years, no really, got over an average opening to the contest and in the end it turned out to be something of a stroll as they eased to a five-wicket triumph.

You can’t win them all, which is the whole point of the shortest format, and this should prove to be no more than a blip but the last two games have shown off a batting order that looks too dependent on those going in first.

Willey and Richard Levi will more often than not provide a few fireworks to give the innings a kick-start, but those doing the supporting need to up their game by some degree.

The visitors’ effort, in truth, was comfortably below par given the start they enjoyed after winning the toss and electing to have first use.

Once again it was Willey who led the charge against the new ball with his 34, which included four sixes, enabling the 50-mark to be passed in the fifth over.

On a turgid surface, maintaining this kind of strike rate was always going to be a tough ask with Moeen Ali and Saeed Ajmal among the home attack, but the Steelbacks lost their way quite badly.

Only 87 was taken from the last 16 overs, or 96 balls if you like, as a succession of batsman got out before they got in.

Good quality spin had a lot to do with that and there is nobody better in the world game than Ajmal, however, too many got stuck in no-mans land and neither knocked it around consistently or found the boundary regularly enough.

Once Willey had hacked Jack Shantry to midwicket and Levi, who just couldn’t get going, skied to long-off the rest of the innings proved to be a scratchy affair.

David Sales was trapped in front by Ajmal, Steven Crook slashed to deep cover off Chris Russell, Ben Duckett advanced to Ali and missed and Matt Spriegel miscued Russell to mid-on.

While all of this was unfolding, Kyle Coetzer was plodding along at the other end but his 34-ball 31 - a microcosm of the second half of the innings - couldn’t provide any kind of late impetus as a total of 134-7 was posted.

If the Steelbacks’ start was brisk, that served up by the Rapids was exactly that.

Ali and Richard Oliver thumped 60 from the first four overs of seam and when the powerplay overs had ended, the target had been halved.

Five an over with 10 wickets in hand is an equation that any side in their right mind would accept and it allowed the hosts to proceed under next to no pressure.

Oliver outpaced his more senior partner slightly in a first-wicket stand of 87 which ended when Ali, a ball after sweeping Graeme White for six, drove him flat to long-off.

The left-hander raced to his maiden Twenty20 half century off only 29 balls - he was dismissed for 77 with one run to win - and with the spinners unable to match their host counterparts, the end came with a substantial chunk of the allocated overs in the bank.