Steelbacks keep Royal London hopes alive with crucial Rapids victory
Ben Duckett continued his prolific form as Northants Steelbacks reignited their Royal London One-day Cup campaign with a 23-run victory against Worcestershire Rapids at New Road.
An eye-catching knock of 86 from 75 balls took the 21-year-old’s nine-day tally to 631 from seven innings for his county and England Lions but it was a close-run thing as Tom Kohler-Cadmore’s first List A century kept the home side in contention for their 320 target.
It was not until the 45th over that left-arm spinner Graeme White landed the knockout blows in three balls.
The dangerous Ross Whitley was caught on the long-on boundary for 22 and Kohler-Cadmore was effectively yorked for 119 after hitting 11 fours and a six from 126 balls.
Duckett, fresh from his undefeated scores of 163 and 220 on international duty, returned to the county side on Tuesday by making 46 in a defeat by Warwickshire at Edgbaston and then moved 35 miles down the road to lead the Steelbacks to an imposing 319 for seven.
On a damp morning, skipper Alex Wakeley may have feared the worst on losing the toss for the seventh time in seven matches in the 50-over competition, but Duckett and Adam Rossington, who played equally well for 87, corrected an early wobble.
Their partnership of 99 in 16 overs gave the innings shape and substance before the big hitters, Steven Crook (52 not out) and Rory Kleinveldt (37) smashed 76 in nine overs.
The late charge, which ended in the last over when Kleinveldt holed out to deep square leg after hitting two sixes and four fours, meant that for Worcestershire to win they would have to surpass their chasing record in List A cricket.
They made a bold attempt. After a bright 43 by Daryl Mitchell, Kohler-Cadmore and Tom Fell broke the back of the target in a relatively trouble-free partnership of 125 in 18 overs.
Northants were in need of inspiration when Richard Gleeson broke through by bowling Fell for 54, a well-crafted, unflustered innings with only four boundaries from 50 deliveries.
Wickets then began to fall. White (three for 59) held a straightforward return catch from Alexei Kervezee and Brett D’Olveira played on to Kleinveldt.
Whiteley rattled the pavilion roof with one of his two sixes but momentum was lost with White’s double intervention and the challenge petered out with the last three wickets in five balls giving Gleeson five for 47, his best in professional cricket.
The match began 10 minutes late because of rain and Northants lost a wicket in the Joe Leach’s first over when Josh Cobb angled a catch to Brett D’Oliveira at point.
Rob Keogh (17) and Wakely later went in quick succession and Worcestershire miss an opportunity when Jack Shantry was unable to hold a low, one-handed chance from Duckett.
The batsman was then on 33 and the cost quickly multiplied until he finished with one six and 12 fours when mistiming a pull off Leach.