Dream debut for Ashraf as Steelbacks defeat Durham
Moin Ashraf enjoyed a dream debut as Northants Steelbacks superbly defended their total to claim a fourth victory in six NatWest T20 Blast matches this season.
Durham Jets were the victims, falling to a 26-run defeat at the County Ground, with Ashraf’s early heroics in their reply so crucial.
The former Yorkshire seamer, who recently joined the Steelbacks on a short-term deal, removed three batsmen during his first 10 balls in County colours.
And Richard Gleeson also bowled superbly in the formative stages of the Durham innings as the home side ran riot, dismissing the Jets’ top four batsmen for a total of just nine runs.
The Steelbacks’ 161 for nine was to prove insurmountable as the Jets were continually stopped in their tracks by the bowling of David Ripley’s determined side.
Josh Cobb claimed two for 29 with the ball to add to his earlier impressive 68 from 48 with the bat and the Jets never looked likely to get anywhere near the victory total.
The convincing win meant the Steelbacks, who saw the previous day’s game at Lancashire Lightning abandoned due to the rain, move back to the top of the North Group.
And they did it despite losing the toss, as Durham elected to field at the County Ground.
Northants opted to stick with Alex Wakely at the top of the order and he hit the first ball for four as the Steelbacks proceeded to take eight from the first over.
Wakely had a scare in the second over as he charged at a Chris Rushworth delivery and saw the ball caught behind, but it had come off the pad and the bowler’s appeal was in vain.
The Northants skipper was otherwise looking calm and composed as he flashed the ball to the boundary on a regular basis during the first four overs.
He and Adam Rossington both registered eye-catching sixes, but Wakely was to go from the first ball of the fifth over as his pull shot from Rushworth’s delivery was caught in the deep.
But Rossington, like Wakely, was only able to get a start before eventually finding a fielder as he took on the spin of Scott Borthwick and was caught on the boundary.
It left the Steelbacks 64 for two with one ball left of the eighth over and they were to add 20 runs more before reaching the halfway stage.
Cobb was the run-getter-in-chief as he racked up four fours and a couple of sixes, but at the other end, Ben Duckett’s stay was brief as he departed for just seven.
The in-form batsman didn’t get the contact he wanted on a sweep shot and was caught at short fine leg, giving Paul Collingwood a wicket.
The Steelbacks were struggling to get in the groove and Cobb was lucky to escape as he was dropped on the boundary, leaving bowler Keaton Jennings with his hands on his head.
And the batsman was to make the most of his reprieve, hammering a six onto the roof of the indoor school before taking a single to reach his half-century.
Steven Crook then got in on the act as he smashed a six onto the sweet van, but he was to go next ball, finding the fielder at long-on to give Jennings a wicket.
Rushworth’s final over saw the bowler finish with figures of one for 17 and the Steelbacks, who were 138 for four, needed a big final three overs.
But Paul Coughlin was to strike as Rob Keogh skied one to point to depart for just one run from two balls.
And after Cobb flung his bat in the air while attempting to smash a delivery, Coughlin claimed another victim, with the Steelbacks’ top scorer nicking one behind.
The home side reached 150 with four wickets and 10 balls remaining, and they needed Rob Newton and Graeme White to chip in with some vital late runs.
Newton flicked a four to leave the Steelbacks 160 for six with an over to go, but Durham and, in particular, Coughlin were to finish with a flourish.
The bowler ended with a hat-trick as he dismissed Newton, White and Richard Gleeson with the final three balls of the innings, leaving the Steelbacks on 161 for nine.
The rain swept across the ground during the break, but while the interval was extended, there was little delay in play as the sun soon returned.
The Jets sought a strong start but they were to lose a wicket in the first over as Richard Gleeson forced Mark Stoneman to play the ball onto his own stumps.
Moin Ashraf was next up for the Steelbacks as he bowled his first over in their colours.
And he was to strike almost immediately, having Jack Burnham caught behind from his second delivery, with the driving Rossington taking a fine catch.
Ashraf was bamboozling the Durham bastmen and there was to be a third duck as Michael Richardson was caught by Crook at mid-off.
The Jets were in real trouble, having lost three wickets for just six runs, and things were to get worse in Ashraf’s second over.
Phil Mustard chipped the ball to Crook, who again took the catch, with the Durham opener departing for just two.
The away side were nine for four, with the top four having scored just two runs between them, and the disastrous powerplay was eventually to end with the Jets on 27 for four.
Collingwood was steadily rebuilding though, hogging the strike and playing some classy shots as he and Scott Borthwick put on a 50 partnership.
But Collingwood couldn’t stick around to steer his side into even calmer waters as he holed out on 38, with Crook taking his third catch of the night, off Cobb’s delivery.
The Jets were 68 for five and they were soon to lose another wicket as Ryan Pringle was bowled by White for six off four balls.
Coughlin had done well with the ball at the end of the Steelbacks’ innings, but he wasn’t able to produce fireworks with the bat, going for 12 as Keogh caught him off Cobb.
Borthwick had attempted to steady the Durham ship during his 29 from 24 balls, but he was eventually run out as Rossington threw to Cobb, who did the rest.
The Steelbacks weren’t able to bowl out the Jets, who needed 39 from the final six balls, but Ashraf finished his third over to register figures of three for 17 and complete a fine night for him and his new team-mates.
Steelbacks: Rossington, Wakely (c), Cobb, Duckett, Crook, Keogh, Newton, White, Gleeson, Azharullah, Ashraf.
Durham Jets: Stoneman (c), Mustard, Richardson, Pringle, Collingwood, Burnham, Jennings, Borthwick, Arshad, Coughlin, Rushworth.