Superb Steelbacks still unbeaten after ruining Rapids' record
Northants Steelbacks remain unbeaten in the NatWest T20 Blast after ruining Worcestershire Rapids' 100 per cent record at the County Ground.
For the third time in as many matches, David Ripley’s men hunted down a total to keep their superb start to the competition going.
The Steelbacks had bowled brilliantly to restrict the Rapids to just 144 for six after the away side had won the toss and opted to bowl.
And Josh Cobb saw Northants home as his unbeaten 56 helped to earn an extremely comfortable victory against a team who had won all three of their previous games in the competition.
The Rapids will get their chance to claim revenge when the two sides renew their rivalry at New Road next Friday, but for now, the Steelbacks join them on six points.
Worcestershire had strolled to victory against Yorkshire Vikings a day earlier and they headed to the County Ground in confident mood.
But after opting to bat, the Rapids were to make a bad start as they lost Tom Kohler-Cadmore in the first over.
The opener skied a Rory Kleinveldt delivery and Cobb showed safe hands as he closed in and kept his nerve.
England ace Moeen Ali responded with a four in the next over, but he was to go in the fourth over as he gloved an Olly Stone delivery and was caught behind.
Stone’s excitement got the better of him though and as the bowler raced over to celebrate he sustained a serious knee injury.
After lengthy treatment he got up to bowl the next ball but as he did so, he collapsed to the ground and was carried off.
Cobb bowled the final ball of the over and Rapids grabbed two from it, leaving them on 28 for two after four overs.
The Steelbacks were applying real pressure and Muhammad Azharullah really turned up the heat, bamboozling Joe Clarke before bowling him with the penultimate ball of the fifth over.
The next five overs were to come and go without a boundary, with Cobb and Seekkuge Prasanna turning the screw.
And the Rapids’ frustration reached boiling point as Alexei Kervezee tried to hit out from the second ball of the 11th over and was caught at long on by Prasanna.
Worcestershire had gone 52 balls without a boundary before Ross Whiteley hit the final ball of the 13th over for six.
But after 13 overs the Rapids had hardly lived up to their name, leaving them 84 for four and needing a big finale.
Whiteley had started to get going, but the Steelbacks had the chance to get rid of him when the batsman lofted one up in the air towards Alex Wakely on the boundary.
But the Steelbacks skipper misjudged it and tipped the ball over the rope for four.
It wasn’t long before Whiteley departed though as, from the final ball of the same over, Rob Keogh took the catch to give Steven Crook the wicket he wanted.
The Rapids just couldn’t get going and more tight bowling from Kleinveldt and Azharullah kept them under the cosh.
The away side were 131 for five going into the final over and Kleinveldt took a wicket with the second ball of it as Brett D’Oliveira was caught at long on for 18.
The Rapids were to finish on 144 for six after a couple of boundaries from Ben Cox.
And the Steelbacks were to make a sticky start in reply as they lost Adam Rossington for five as he holed out off the bowling of Jack Shantry.
But Levi steadied the ship with a couple of fours, taking him past 4,000 runs in T20 cricket.
Joe Leach, who had taken 10 wickets in his three previous T20 outings this season, was brought on in a bid to get another breakthrough, but Levi smashed him all over the park.
The South African took 18 from Leach’s first over and the Steelbacks were 63 for one at the end of a hugely productive powerplay.
Levi then leathered D’Oliveira for six, but the bowler got his revenge, taking the catch to get rid of the South African for a superb 44 from just 24 balls.
But Cobb and Ben Duckett then turned on the cruise control, taking their boundaries where possible and stopping the Rapids from getting a sniff.
Duckett eventually departed for 24 as he was caught by Clarke off the bowling of Ali, but Cobb stuck around and hit a four and a six from successive Leach deliveries to reach his half-century and secure the hugely impressive win for the Steelbacks.
Steelbacks: Levi, Rossington, Cobb, Duckett, Crook, Wakely (c), Prasanna, Kleinveldt, White, Stone, Azharullah.
Worcestershire Rapids: Ali, Kohler-Cadmore, Mitchell (c), Clarke, Kervezee, D’Oliveira, Whiteley, Cox, Leach, Henry, Shantry.