Steelbacks' Blast campaign over after dramatic one-run defeat at Leicestershire

Northants Steelbacks suffered a heartbreaking one-run defeat to end their hopes of progressing in the Vitality Blast.

By Jon Culley
Friday, 1st July 2022, 10:24 pm
Updated Friday, 1st July 2022, 10:25 pm
Leicestershire Foxes celebrate their final ball victory over the Steelbacks
Leicestershire Foxes celebrate their final ball victory over the Steelbacks

The County needed to beat Leicestershire Foxes to keep alive their hopes of a quarter-final place, but they fell just short.

The Foxes had totalled 214 for six, and the Steelbacks got oh so close, before closing on 213 for seven.

It was a dramatic chase from the Steelbacks, with Chris Lynn, Josh Cobb and Jimmy Neesham all hitting half-centuries.

But chasing down the Foxes total proved just beyond them despite an extraordinary last over in which they needed 19 to win and might have pulled it off had a furious Neesham not been run out with three balls to go after a mix-up with team-mate Tom Taylor.

Leicestershire’s total was built on their best powerplay of the season, in which they plundered 61 for one after Nick Welch lofted Josh Cobb over long off for six and pulled Taylor for another maximum before Lewis Hill scooped Neesham over the rope at fine leg.

They were checked by the loss of both openers in consecutive overs as Welch was leg before trying to work Graeme White to leg and Hill, who had been dropped off Taylor on five, bottom-edged into his stumps off Freddie Heldreich.

But new men Arron Lilley and Ackermann restored the momentum to move the total to 100 for two at halfway and the pair had added 62 in 41 balls before they were parted when Lilley was bowled by White sweeping in the 14th.

Wiaan Mulder holed out after three deliveries but the last five overs added 72 runs, 39 of them from Ackermann, who crashed two sixes off Ben Sanderson and another off Taylor before he chased a wide ball from the former to be caught at extra cover, but with Ben Mike (15 off seven) and Louis Kimber (13 off seven) chipping in usefully.

The Foxes’ defence began with a wicket first ball as Ben Curran was adjudged to be leg before as he missed a reverse sweep against Callum Parkinson.

The Steelbacks recovered to 44 for one after six, although the rate required was above 12.

The visiting side reached halfway needing another 125 but it was in their favour that Cobb and Lynn were still together, the Australian big-hitter completing his sixth half-century of the competition with a straight six out of the ground at the pavilion end off Mike, before his fourth maximum - his second off young leg spinner Rehan Ahmed - brought up the 100 partnership.

Lynn was threatening to take the game away from the Foxes, so there were huge celebrations when the Queenslander, who had gone past 500 runs for the season, hit straight a wide Mulder full toss into the safe hands of Ackermann at mid-off.

When Cobb, having just gone past fifty, found Mulder at long on off Ackermann and Parkinson claimed his second lbw against a reverse sweep to dismiss Saif Zaib, the Steelbacks had lost three wickets in as many overs to be 147 for four after 15, needing 68 from 30 balls with the Foxes now favourites.

After New Zealander Neesham had clubbed two sixes off Mike, drama in the penultimate over, which went for 17, saw Naveen ul-Haq unable to complete the over after bowling two full tosses over waist height, Lewis McManus hitting the second free hit for six.

And more followed in the final over, which the Foxes had to start with five fielders inside the circle after going past the cut-off time.

Neesham drove Mike’s first and third ball for six and four either side of a sacrificial run-out by McManus but with six needed off the last two balls after Mike had bowled a wide, Taylor stayed in his crease as Neesham went for a second run, leaving his partner comfortably run out.

Three off the last ball would have tied the contest but White’s straight drive was worth only two.