More late heroics from Steelbacks as they see off Falcons
Northants claimed a second dramatic win in as many NatWest T20 Blast matches as they defeated Derbyshire Falcons in front of a jubilant crowd at the County Ground.
It was the highest T20 run chase at the ground as the Steelbacks surpassed the Falcons’ impressive 195 for seven to claim a three-wicket victory.
Graeme White hit the penultimate ball for four to spark celebrations in the stands, but his effort didn’t matter as Andy Carter’s delivery was deemed a no ball.
Nevertheless, White had done his job from the first ball he faced, just as Seekkuge Prasanna did a week earlier when the Steelbacks won a final-over thriller at Leicestershire Foxes.
As he had at Grace Road, Richard Levi set David Ripley’s men up for the victory, hitting a second half-century in as many matches.
Josh Cobb, who was standing in as skipper for the injured Alex Wakely, hit a valuable 35, while Steven Crook played a superb innings and was there at the end on 33.
The Falcons had looked destined for victory after racking up a big total, which owed much Wes Durston (47), Chesney Hughes (46) and a late unbeaten 37 from Tom Poynton.
The Steelbacks had stemmed the tide thanks to some spin, with Prasanna the pick of the bowlers with two for 27 from his four overs.
But a special reply was still needed, and Northants produced it to maintain their 100 per cent record in this season’s competition.
Hamish Rutherford had hit the first ball of Derbyshire innings for four, but Rory Kleinveldt produced a good response, restricting the Falcons to just four more runs from the over.
Olly Stone bowled a tight second over before Kleinveldt started to force the Falcons into errors.
Crook dropped the first chance to get rid of Rutherford but took the second, three balls later, to give Kleinveldt and the Steelbacks the wicket they wanted.
The Falcons were taking chances and after an edge dropped just short of Levi at slip, wicketkeeper Adam Rossington dropped the final ball of the over.
Both missed catches resulted in fours for the fortunate Chesney Hughes and the away side were up to 34 for one after the fourth over.
And the Steelbacks’ good start was fading when Crook conceded 20 off his first over, with Durston cashing in with some welcome boundaries.
Falcons were 65 for one after the powerplay and they cruised up to 86 for one two overs later, with the Steelbacks struggling to create chances and desperately needing a wicket.
It was to be Prasanna who made the breakthrough, celebrating with a cheeky ‘dab’ after seeing the destructive Durston stumped by Rossington for 47.
The Falcons continued to play some flashy shots, but Neil Broom, who had replaced Durston in the middle, was also to fall to Prasanna as Rob Keogh took the catch at cover.
The Steelbacks had started to hit back, but Ben Duckett dropped a tough chance to get rid of Chesney Hughes, who was starring in his own version of The Great Escape.
Wayne Madsen had started to get in the groove, but he was trapped LBW by Cobb for 21.
And the stand-in skipper soon had another wicket as, two balls later, he claimed the prized wicket of Chesney Hughes, who was bowled for 46.
The Falcons’ innings was starting to roll towards the ditch when Stone returned to claim the wicket of Jimmy Neesham for one.
It was three wickets in four balls, leaving the Falcons on 141 for six, needing to rebuild in the final six overs.
But Shiv Thakor came and went as Graeme White took the catch off his own bowling to dismiss the Derbyshire man for just eight.
The Steelbacks were strangling the Falcons with spin and they resisted the temptation to throw Kleinveldt or Muhammad Azharullah back into the fray until the final two overs.
When Kleinveldt did return he conceded 14 runs, prompting the Steelbacks to revert to the spin of White for the final over.
But Poynton was to plunder a six from the penultimate ball and the Falcons were sitting pretty on 195 for seven, which was the joint sixth highest T20 score on the ground.
The Steelbacks needed a brilliant reply to have any chance of claiming the win, and Rossington hit a stylish four to help them earn eight from the first over.
He then proceeded to hammer a six and a four in the second over before Thakor smashed the ball into the stumps to leave the Steelbacks opener infuriated.
But Levi was starting to hit his straps and he smashed a superb 18 off Thakor’s second over to leave the Steelbacks on 60 for one after just five overs.
It was exactly the start they needed and they were to finish the sixth over on 71 for one, which was better than what the Falcons had managed during their powerplay.
The Falcons eventually turned to spin and Matt Critchley only conceded four from his first over.
But when Alex Hughes returned, the Steelbacks were soon scoring freely again and Levi made his way to a classy 50 from just 28 balls.
Cobb brought up the hundred in fortunate fashion as he was dropped on 29 by Madsen off the bowling of Durston.
But the reprieve was only temporary as Alex Hughes took the catch off the bowling of Critchley, leaving the Steelbacks on 108 for two.
Duckett headed to the middle and with eight overs to go, the Steelbacks needed 76 runs to win.
But the Falcons then got the big wicket of Levi as he holed out off the bowling of the impressive Critchley.
And after Alex Hughes conceded just two runs off his final over, the Steelbacks’ required rate crept above 10 an over, with Duckett and Crook the men in the middle.
Crook started to crank things up in the 15th over, with the Steelbacks taking 18 from it, and Duckett then smashed a superb six from the first ball of the next over.
That sweep shot, which ended up in the burger van, was followed by a four, but Duckett was out next ball as Thakor took the catch at point off the bowling of Durston.
The Steelbacks had taken 31 from two overs when they needed it and the required rate had dropped below eight.
But from the first ball of the 18th over, Andy Carter struck, bowling Prasanna, who was to go for a duck.
The Steelbacks still needed 27 off the final 17 balls, but Kleinveldt came in and hit a silky four to aid the bid.
The home side needed 16 from the final two overs and Crook set about getting them there with a lovely four.
Kleinveldt followed suit and the Steelbacks needed five runs to win from the final six balls.
Carter started the final over with a wide but he got rid of Kleinveldt next ball as Neesham took the catch at long-on.
That brought Rob Keogh to the middle and he hit a two to leave the scores level with three balls remaining.
But Keogh was bowled by Carter next ball, meaning White would have two balls to hit that precious run.
He only needed one as he hit Carter’s no-ball for four, giving the Steelbacks a superb success.
Northants Steelbacks: Levi, Rossington, Cobb, Duckett, Crook, Prasanna, Keogh, Kleinveldt, White, Stone, Azharullah.
Derbyshire Falcons: Durston, Rutherford, Hughes, Madsen, Broom, Neesham, Hughes, Thakor, Critchley, Poynton, Carter.