Worcestershire see off Steelbacks in dead rubber

Moeen Ali (left) made 72 in Worcestershire's 182-6
Moeen Ali (left) made 72 in Worcestershire's 182-6

In the greater scheme of things, the Friends Life t20 encounter between Northamptonshire and Worcestershire this evening meant absolutely nothing.

The home side were already into the last eight - when was the last time they had a dead rubber for all the right reasons? - and the visitors were playing for, well, not much really.

Nevertheless, there was another good attendance on site, albeit a bit on the subdued side, and they got to witness a worthy contest.

That it finished in a 37-run defeat for the hosts, unless they are big worriers, is neither here nor there and if it does leave a sour taste it won’t be for long.

The visitors successfully chased in excess of 180 three days ago against Somerset, giving the Steelbacks a home quarter-final in the process, and their batting line-up again enjoyed itself in near perfect conditions.

A flat pitch, lightning fast outfield and the opposition’s two most penetrative bowlers being given the night off all played into Worcestershire’s hands.

That was especially true of Moeen Ali who carved his way to 72 off 45 balls, nothing exceptional in a Twenty20 context, but the fact that he racked up 40 runs from his final 11 balls meant there was a century there for the taking but he perished in search for a fifth six in three overs when he lofted Steven Crook to long-on.

There were decent contributions from Ben Cox, Daryl Mitchell and Gareth Andrew in the early, middle and latter stages of the innings as, for once, the home side’s attack were a touch off the pace.

Matt Spriegel got rid of Cox and Alexei Kervezee in the same over before Ali took a liking to him and Olly Stone gave a glimpse of his undoubted promise with four decent overs.

The end result was a very competitive total of 182 for six which would provide a challenge however well you’re playing, but Richard Levi and Kyle Coetzer set about their task with gusto and were nicely up with the rate after the mandatory powerplay.

They both fell in successive Ali overs, the former lofting a catch to deep midwicket and the latter chipping to the short version of the same position.

Alex Wakely hit the same bowler for a pair of sixes and was then bowled round his legs, leaving the onus on Cameron White who would have to be there at the finale if win number eight was to be secured.

Ali’s remarkable evening continued as he bowled Crook and had Spriegel stumped in his fourth over to claim a five-wicket haul, and tumbling wickets nearly always result in an escalating required run rate.

When White found long-off at the start of the 18th over, a tall order became insurmountable, the Steelbacks closing on 145 for six,