Steelbacks savaged by the Rapids as alarming T20 slump continues
The Steelbacks were eviscerated by Worcestershire Rapids at the County Ground on Friday night as the home side's T20 slump continued in excruciating fashion.
The Rapids raced to their victory target of 188 with 41 balls to spare, winning by nine wickets after opener Martin Guptill earned a standing ovation from some Steelbacks supporters by hitting 102 from just 38 balls.
Guptill's hundred, which came from 36 deliveries, was the fastest of the season in the Vitality Blast, surpassing Dan Christian's effort against Northants at the County Ground earlier this month.
Ian Bell and Calum MacLeod have also hit hundreds against the County in this competition.
Joe Clarke, like Guptill, enjoyed his evening in Northampton, ending unbeaten on 61 from 33 balls.
It was the worst display of the lot for the Steelbacks, who have now failed to win any of their seven matches in this season's Vitality Blast, losing six of them.
They have shipped a gargantuan amount of runs in almost every match, with their bowling attack enduring misery upon misery.
And the 2013 and 2016 champions are now all but out of the Blast with half of the competition still to play.
Worcestershire had won the toss after a slight rain delay and they opted to bowl first, keeping things extremely tight in the opening over.
But it didn't take too long for Steelbacks opener Richard Levi to get in the groove.
The South African took a liking to Luke Wood, hitting two fours and two sixes from the third over.
Ben Duckett also looked in good touch as he made his way to 25, but he was to depart from the final ball of the powerplay as he lofted one up off the bowling of Patrick Brown.
The Steelbacks finished the first six overs on 54 for one and they were to lose Levi 14 balls later as England star Moeen Ali was introduced into the attack and had him caught at backward point for 39.
The innings was now starting to stutter for the Steelbacks and when Josh Cobb tried to kick-start the home charge, he was caught on the boundary by Ed Barnard off Brett D'Oliveira for seven.
The spinners were having a big say for the Rapids and Kyle Coetzer could only make six before being dismissed by Ali.
But Alex Wakely tried to fight back, helping the Steelbacks to take 15 runs from the same over in which Coetzer returned to the sidelines.
However, Wakely's innings wasn't long enough for the home side's liking as he was caught and bowled by Barnard for 28.
That left the Steelbacks struggling on 118 for five before Steven Crook and Seekkuge Prasanna started to step on the accelerator.
Brown put the brakes on by having Prasanna caught on the boundary for 12 and Barnard had Crook caught behind for a quickfire 33.
Rory Kleinveldt introduced himself in typically powerful fashion, but his colourful cameo came to an end when he was bowled by Wood for 15 from five balls.
Nathan Buck hit a four before being done by a short ball from Brown in the final over and the innings concluded with two runs from Richard Gleeson.
The Rapids reply started with 13 from the first over, bowled by Kleinveldt, and Gleeson, playing his first white-ball game of the season, then made his bowling return.
His pace troubled the visiting batsmen and after conceding just a wide, he saw the final ball of the over go for four after it flew between Levi and wicketkeeper Duckett.
But Worcestershire then found their feet, flashing the blade relentlessly as the Steelbacks started to suffer some real damage.
Gleeson's second over went for 22 and the savaging of the Steelbacks continued to the end of the powerplay as Rapids finished the first six overs on mountainous 97 without loss.
The punishment continued and the abject fielding display was summed up when Prasanna took a catch but carried the ball over the boundary without knowing where the rope was.
Guptill eventually made his way to a ton from just 36 balls, earning a standing ovation.
And most members of the crowd were on their feet again when he departed, caught by Cobb off Gleeson to a backdrop of ironic cheers from the Steelbacks faithful.
Clarke kept going though, reaching his half-century in 23 deliveries, and Travis Head finished the job, smashing a six to seal a huge win for the away side.
Steelbacks: Levi, Duckett (wk), Cobb, Wakely (c), Coetzer, Crook, Prasanna, Kleinveldt, White, Buck, Gleeson.
Worcestershire Rapids: Guptill, Head, Clarke, Ali (c), D'Oliveira, Cox, Whiteley, Barnard, Wood, Brown, Carter.