Wakely century steers Steelbacks to Tunbridge triumph

Alex Wakely scored his maiden List A century at Tunbridge Wells

Alex Wakely scored his maiden List A century at Tunbridge Wells

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Northamptonshire’s limited overs revival continued apace as they claimed a third consecutive win, by 29 runs, at Tunbridge Wells.

Alex Wakely’s maiden one century was the highlight of another solid performance and, you never know, talk might soon turn to trying to reach the knockout stages.

And that wouldn’t be as far-fetched as a fortnight ago when there were no signs that a recovery was on its way but that is exactly what has taken place.

Having won their previous game chasing, Kent decided to do the same when Alex Wakely called incorrectly at the picturesque Nevill Ground.

On a ground that usually produces decent surfaces and doesn’t have the biggest boundaries going around that could easily be interpreted as tossing away a bit of an advantage and it certainly looked that way once proceedings were properly under way.

An attack without a great deal of pace, their premier spinner on international duty and nothing to really work ensured that the Steelbacks top order could do as they pretty much pleased.

And it was Rob Newton and Wakely who made the most of the ideal batting conditions.

Until he was forced to retire hurt in the 33rd over after damaging his right ankle, the former, who made his highest List A score, was well on course for three figures as he accelerated smoothly after getting himself set.

But his captain did record a century and it was an excellent effort.

Quickly into his stride once Kyle Coetzer had fallen in Adam Riley’s first over - the 16th of the innings - Wakely, for all his struggles in the Championship produced a textbook one-day innings.

Without resorting to anything crude or ungainly, which isn’t really his style anyway, he rarely failed to score off a delivery, hit boundaries at the right time and was there in the final overs to take advantage with his hundred arriving off a rapid 76 balls.

All that and a second four-over powerplay that realised 57 runs, contributed to a tally of 263-4, probably about par but carrying the extra weight of having to be chased which tends to add on a bit more.

Assumption, however, is the mother of all foul-ups and Kent put the quality of the pitch into perspective as they went about their business in the second half of the contest.

The two Sams, Northeast and Billings opened up in effective fashion and had wiped 64 off the target when the former was well taken by a diving James Middlebrook at midwicket off Lee Daggett.

Billings and Brendan Nash kept up with the rate with few problems, the younger of the two bringing up his 50 at almost a run a ball, to the extent that when Nash skied Muhammad Azharullah the deficit had been halved with 17 overs remaining.

The hosts had probably edged ahead prior to Nash’s departure but the tide turned slightly in the visitors’ favour when Billings aimed a swipe at Daggett and had his stumps disturbed.

A handful of tight overs didn’t add anything to the hosts’ chances of coming out on top and this often can be absorbed when setting a score more easily than when in pursuit.

A slowing of the run rate generally results in wickets falling, as it did here, and it took a cameo from Alex Blake to inject a bit of life into the chase.

But when he carved Trent Copeland to point, any lingering hopes were finally extinguished, a fact that three wickets in one Copeland over confirmed.