VIEW FROM THE BLUES: ‘Hollywood’ heroics not enough to send Steelbacks through

MAN IN A HURRY - David 'Hollywood' Willey
MAN IN A HURRY - David 'Hollywood' Willey
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As fabulous and cathartic as the Twenty20 win was, it was a bit bold to organise an open top bus tour a month from now to celebrate.

Only the Northants members really felt the true impact of that night, and very few of them come out for Twenty20 anyway.

It will be hard to get them out on a dark Friday September evening, especially when Eastenders and a game of cosy crib beckons elsewhere.

The Twenty20 win needs to be ‘fleshed out’ to justify that parade, the last round of YB40 games this week and a critical championship game with Essex a good pointer to just how many road cones to order.

The simplest way to progress in the YB40 last Monday was the Steelbacks to win their eightH YB40 game out of nine, and for Notts to lose.

If Notts won, then Lancashire, Hampshire and Glamorgan had to lose to be sure, a big ask.

It was all about run rate.

After winning the toss Northants had to score big in front of a sprinkling of County fans and boozy Brummies, so step forward ‘Hollywood’ (David Willey), back opening at Edgbaston.

He produced an extraordinary assault, scoring that incredible 167 with a ton of boundaries, literally, second only to the great Ned Larkins.

Fifty partnerships with Sales and Duckett and a rapid 100 with Keogh (a PB 61) would post that record 40-over Northants score, and our fifth highest ever List A total. Wow!

Roger Harper was the last guy to hit this big and bad.

The next requirement was to bowl the Bears out cheaply on a flat pitch with a short boundary.

No problem again, as they were skittled for 199 in 31 overs, tumbling from 133 for three as Mohammad Azharullah started the collapse on cue with his pace and killer length.

Nice to see Lee Daggett end his one-day career at Northants with a hat-trick ball, and all the best to him at the Saints.

It’s a shame he’s leaving as he was getting better every season. He wouldn’t do any damage in division one though, and long spells in the seconds were clearly not for him.

Alas, results didn’t go our way.

The powerhouse one-day counties Notts and Hampshire won their groups, so it came down to the Somerset v Gloucestershire game in the final group to see who would join Glamorgan in the last four.

As the Gladiators edged towards Somerset’s total, their run rate had fallen below that of the Steelbacks, but they came up short and the treble dream was over - that washout in the Netherlands ultimately our downfall.

It was good to see Alex Wakely angry about the qualification criteria after the match, and now he knows exactly how the fans felt when the Steelbacks disrespected the tournament we have loved over the years by not exactly trying to win it and so helping to wipe it off the calendar.

For the championship match at Colchester, a predicable flat four-day festival pitch was produced and the murmur around crowd was created by the surprise signing of Monty Panesar.

The fact Panesar chose Essex over us is all you need know about him returning to Wantage Road next season.

His mental state at Northampton deteriorated like his form (not unconnected) because of dressing room issues.

With that vital toss won we piled up the runs, the ground overflowing with runs like that confidence from t20 Finals Day.

There were centuries from David Sales and skipper Stephen Peters, the big man getting 90 of his 131 in boundaries, and this is the Sales we remember.

With the pitch set to turn it was a welcome 200 partnership between the two best bats in the team, and like Mal Loye, Sales appears relaxed now he has made up his mind about his future, and so is scoring again with the pressure all but off.

What I do know is, Sales will be in division one next year if this form continues.

Missing the fifth bating point was slightly disappointing, but it’s easy to collapse chasing it.

When Wakely went for 49, we needed 62 from 23 overs.

It would be that very point that cost us promotion last time against Essex, and I was a bit surprised Steven Crook didn’t come in ahead of Andrew Hall and Rob Keogh to try and blast the fifth point. but getting near 500 and securing the game seemed the plan.

A total of 531 was an excellent score, and for only one bowling point.

Crook and Hall scored 63 each, but Crook’s came in 79 minutes, and Hall’s in 204.

So could Trent Copeland do it on a rock-hard summer festival pitch?

Of course he could, and it was business as usual with his old mukka Crooky as Essex rocked on 103 for five.

But old heads Ryan ten Doschete and James Foster closed out the day unbeaten.

After the rain took out day three it was unlikely 15 wickets would fall on this pitch on the final day, the Dutchman taking his first ton of the season in 170 match-saving partnership with Foster (95).

The troubled Panesar enjoyed taking Essex past the follow on against his old employers for the draw, as James Middlebrook and Peters equally enjoyed a couple of not outs for their impressive batting averages to close the match on 54 without loss.

Plusses would be those who didn’t play Twenty20 Finals Day scored the top three scores here, and maximum bowling points again for Copeland and his imperious line and length.

Promotion remains odds-on with current levels of team spirit.