Willey flogs floundering Foxes as Steelbacks triumph

David Willey single-handedly earned the Northamptonshire Steelbacks their second Natwest t20 Blast victory in as many outings as his brutal 95 saw off the Leicestershire Foxes.

Saturday, 24th May 2014, 1:32 pm
MAIN MAN - David Willey in action during the Steelbacks' dramatic win over Leicestershire Foxes on Friday night (Pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)

Chasing an imposing 177 from 18 overs - a 45-minute delay to the start reduced the contest slightly - the all-rounder, playing solely as a batsman, savaged anything that was served up.

There’s no point arguing as to the aesthetic quality of batting in this kind of game as it’s irrelevant.

This was unadulterated ball-striking, clean and muscular and it made mincemeat of a shell-shocked attack.

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Natwedst T20 Blast Northants Steelbacks v Leicestershire Foxes. Graeme White. NNL-140523-204926009

His effort should’ve resulted in a far more comfortable success and a little less panic in future contests wouldn’t go amiss but the table will say two points and that’s all that matters.

Having been put into bat, the Foxes’ start, while nothing spectacular given some of the openings doing the rounds these days in this format, was solid enough.

Ten an over for the five overs with fielding restrictions for the loss of only one wicket, that of old boy Niall O’Brien, provided a sound platform for the visitors.

Josh Cobb has never been one to stand on ceremony at the best of times and he scored freely against an attack that struggled for consistency in their length and in bowling to the fields that were set.

Natwedst T20 Blast Northants Steelbacks v Leicestershire Foxes. NNL-140523-204850009

It is far from an exact science of course, but too much was offered up that enabled Cobb and Greg Smith to free their arms which they did merrily.

The former, should have perished shortly before he reached his half century from 31 balls but Ben Duckett made a complete hash of a routine stumping with Matt Spriegel the bowler.

Smith, playing in an almost identical style to his partner, was only fractionally slower to his own landmark before Ian Butler, who was responsible for O’Brien’s removal, clattered his stumps.

By this time, the pair had thrashed 113 in 11 overs but once Cobb had departed in the next over for an excellent 70, they looked like falling short of what had been on the cards.

Natwedst T20 Blast Northants Steelbacks v Leicestershire Foxes. Niall O'Brien NNL-140523-204901009

This was put to rights, however, by Scott Styris who launched the off colour Muhammad Azharullah for a couple of last over sixes to power the score to a more than competitive 176-4.

Any chase of such magnitude usually necessitates a strong use of the powerplay and by the time five overs had been used up, the score was marginally under that of the visitors.

But if the Steelbacks had been average with the ball, the Foxes, in the initial stages, were dreadful.

Willey’s hitting can be indiscriminate but if the ball is consistently in his arc, as he proved in the final last year, he can be mightily dangerous.

Natwedst T20 Blast Northants Steelbacks v Leicestershire Foxes. Ollie Stone. NNL-140523-221518009

Rapidly into his stride, two gigantic sixes in Anthony Ireland’s first over pushed the hosts ahead of the rate and his fourth maximum, this one of Cobb’s off-spin took him past 50 from a paltry 24 deliveries.

He should really have gone a few moments earlier but Matthew Boyce and Ned Eckersley, in a moment only they could explain, left what would have been a straightforward chance to the former fall harmlessly to the floor.

Kyle Coetzer, Rob Newton and Steven Crook didn’t hang around for too long and the Foxes may have sniffed an opportunity but if the life granted to Willey was laughable, the second was worthy of becoming a Youtube sensation.

Either point or the keeper could’ve taken a simple catch but Ireland decided it was his as he raced 20 yards and the end result was the ball on the floor and the home faithful in stitches.

Willey’s departure for 95 and three late wickets created tension where none should’ve existed and there was still time for another dropped catch - Ireland again the culprit - but that only reprieved Graeme White who slashed the winning boundary from the next ball.