Steelbacks fall just short as South Africa edge to victory
Tom Sole's brave half-century wasn't enough for Northants as they were narrowly beaten by South Africa at the County Ground.
The Proteas prevailed by 13 runs as they laboured to victory in their final warm-up match ahead of the ODI series against England.
Sole, on his senior debut, kept the Steelbacks chase of 276 alive and then with 27 to win from 24 balls and Northants nine down, swung Andile Phehlukwayo twice over long-off for six.
Fourteen runs were needed from 18 balls as South Africa turned back to the pace of Morne Morkel, and he ended the drama with a short ball that Sole lifted to third man.
It was a game Northants could easily have won after Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis and David Miller made half-centuries in South Africa’s below-par 275 for seven.
Saif Zaib took two for 22 and Muhammad Azharullah grabbed two for 58 for Northants.
Max Holden’s maiden List A half-century then helped give Northants a bright opening to their innings.
He passed 50 in 48 balls but trying to pull a short ball from Imran Tahir, he dragged into his stumps for 55.
Chesney Hughes also fell to a cross-batted stroke but his was far more agricultural, attempting a slog sweep at JP Duminy and being bowled for 31.
Until then, Hughes played a full part in the second-wicket stand of 92 with Holden, the pick of his strokes a blistering cut stroke against Morris.
But Hughes’ dismissal was reflective of the innings where Northants were largely the makers of their own downfall.
Zaib swung Tahir to long-on, James Kettleborough mistimed a pull to mid-on and Rory Kleinveldt edged Morne Morkel to the wicketkeeper trying to run a ball to third man.
Steven Crook was the only other batsman to show for Northants, his entertaining 42 featured four boundaries from Phehlukwayo’s sixth over.
But he also fell in disappointing fashion, with a mistimed pull taken at short third man.
That appeared to be Northants’ hopes ended, but Sole at least got them close.