Vikings have too much to offer as Steelbacks slump to defeat

KEY MOMENT - Yorkshire Vikings bowler Azeem Rafiq celebrates claiming the crucial wicket of Richard Levi at the County Ground (Pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)

KEY MOMENT - Yorkshire Vikings bowler Azeem Rafiq celebrates claiming the crucial wicket of Richard Levi at the County Ground (Pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)

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A second defeat in as many outings for Northamptonshire Steelbacks was the outcome from the visit of Yorkshire Vikings in the Natwest t20 Blast.

A pleasant evening, a bumper attendance and a format that hasn’t caused any headaches this season could well have seen a return to winning ways but it wasn’t to be.

Natwest T20 Blast Northants Steelbacks v Yorkshire Vikings. NNL-140613-214552009

Natwest T20 Blast Northants Steelbacks v Yorkshire Vikings. NNL-140613-214552009

Put simply, the home side were beaten by a superior performance by a very good Yorkshire outfit who ran well, caught well and took wickets at crucial times and while the loss to Worcestershire was the result of a lacklustre showing, the same charge can’t really be applied in this case.

Having won the toss and batted on a used surface, the visitors made something of a scratchy start.

It was immediately evident that the ball wasn’t coming on to the bat and both Aaron Finch and Andrew Gale didn’t look comfortable in their short stays.

The former, who will have featured in any pre-match tactical discussion for good reason given the reputation that preceded him, failed to get going before he was superbly taken by a back-tracking Rob Keogh to earn Olly Stone a wicket maiden and Gale hit a quartet of boundaries prior to edging Muhammad Azharullah behind.

Natwest T20 Blast Northants Steelbacks v Yorkshire Vikings. NNL-140613-214552006

Natwest T20 Blast Northants Steelbacks v Yorkshire Vikings. NNL-140613-214552006

But where the openers scratched, Alex Lees and Jonny Bairstow skated and the duo added 53 in fluent fashion to give the innings some decent momentum.

There weren’t that many boundaries to speak of, a centrally placed pitch and a large playing area saw to that, but that was more than made up for by good placement and dynamic running between the wickets.

What it did show is that there is more than one way to skin the proverbial cat and there’s more to it than just thrashing the ball to, or over, the rope.

Lees went when he picked out extra cover off Matt Spriegel but Bairstow, especially strong off his legs, didn’t break stride and he was joined by Adam Lyth whose effort was more urgent in its tempo.

Natwest T20 Blast Northants Steelbacks v Yorkshire Vikings. NNL-140613-214513009

Natwest T20 Blast Northants Steelbacks v Yorkshire Vikings. NNL-140613-214513009

The left-handed Lyth continued where he left off from his County Championship double century a fortnight ago and provided a neat counterfoil to Bairstow who reached his 50 from 33 balls and then, as if to emphasise the quality of his work, promptly launched the next over long-on into the crowd.

All of this meant a score that appeared to be heading into adequate territory was much more comprehensive as 63 were taken from the final five overs to leave a demanding chase.

Such demands generally necessitate a robust opening but 39-2 after the powerplay with David Willey and Kyle Coetzer gone wasn’t ideal.

That left an awful lot of responsibility on the shoulders of Richard Levi as was emphasised by the fact that when he got to 50 with his third six, a straight effort off Adil Rashid’s leg-spin, only 13 had been added from other means.

Natwest T20 Blast Northants Steelbacks v Yorkshire Vikings. NNL-140613-214500009

Natwest T20 Blast Northants Steelbacks v Yorkshire Vikings. NNL-140613-214500009

Having said that, the halfway score of 72-3 wasn’t too dissimilar to the visitors’ 74-2 and while the South African was in, the Steelbacks had a good chance.

By keeping the required rate to around the 10 an over mark, so long considered unachievable but nowadays par for the course, complete recklessness could be restricted until the final stages, however, that equation altered for the worse when Levi miscued Azeem Rafiq to long-on.

Rafiq’s miserly spell of 2-19, which included his last delivery being swiped for six, put the brakes on any charge and by the time he had completed his evening’s work, the aforementioned rate had climbed to an unreachable level.

There was a brief flurry from those later in the order but it was to no avail and the margin of defeat - 16 runs as it turned out - doesn’t show how emphatic a victory this was for Yorkshire.

Natwest T20 Blast Northants Steelbacks v Yorkshire Vikings. NNL-140613-214503006

Natwest T20 Blast Northants Steelbacks v Yorkshire Vikings. NNL-140613-214503006

Natwest T20 Blast Northants Steelbacks v Yorkshire Vikings. NNL-140613-214624006

Natwest T20 Blast Northants Steelbacks v Yorkshire Vikings. NNL-140613-214624006

Natwest T20 Blast Northants Steelbacks v Yorkshire Vikings. NNL-140613-214431006

Natwest T20 Blast Northants Steelbacks v Yorkshire Vikings. NNL-140613-214431006