Lynn and Zaib star as Steelbacks hammer rock-bottom Foxes

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The Steelbacks moved up to sixth place in the Vitality Blast North Group with a huge 92-run win over rock-bottom Leicestershire Foxes at Grace Road on Friday night.

A traumatic couple of days for Leicestershire predictably ended on another low note as the Foxes concluded their home fixtures in the Blast with a crushing defeat at the hands of the Steelbacks.

Chris Lynn, who has hit Blast centuries against Foxes in each of the last two seasons, continued his assault with 62 from 35 balls, Saif Zaib hitting 55 off 25 as the two piled on 124 off 50 balls for the third wicket in a total of 210 for seven from their 20 overs. Mike Finan took two for 30 as the best of some modest bowling figures

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Rehan Ahmed made a spirited 49 off 32 balls but the Foxes were bowled out for 118 in 16.4 overs in reply, Ben Sanderson taking three for 20, with two wickets each for David Willey, Andrew Tye and Justin Broad, with wicketkeeper Lewis McManus involved in a county record five dismissals.

The Steelbacks celebrate a wicket in the win over Leicestershire Foxes (Picture: Peter Short)The Steelbacks celebrate a wicket in the win over Leicestershire Foxes (Picture: Peter Short)
The Steelbacks celebrate a wicket in the win over Leicestershire Foxes (Picture: Peter Short)

With Leicestershire’s head coach Paul Nixon placed “on leave” by the club on Thursday, bowling coach Alfonso Thomas and batting consultant James Taylor were in charge of the Foxes.

The circumstances behind the decision to relieve Nixon of his duties after six years in the job remain shrouded in mystery. The club’s website belatedly carried a statement from chairman John Thorpe essentially explaining that he could say nothing for legal reasons.

Chief executive Sean Jarvis was a little more forthcoming in an interview with BBC Radio Leicester, speaking of “comments” and “accusations” as he alluded to events over a period of months, suggesting Nixon’s departure was unrelated to the announcement - also made on Thursday - that senior players Colin Ackermann, Callum Parkinson and Chris Wright would be leaving at the end of the season.

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Ackermann and Parkinson were both selected to face the Steelbacks, although Ackermann handed captaincy duties to overseas player Peter Handscomb.

The Australian won his first toss in the role, asking Northants to bat first.

Steelbacks openers Ricardo Vasconcelos and Emilio Gay needed a couple of overs to get the measure of a slow pitch but still managed to rack up 49 runs in the powerplay.

Checked by a tight over by Rehan Ahmed, they were parted in an excellent over by Callum Parkinson, the eighth of the innings, when a top-edged pull by Vasconcelos dropped safely into the hands of Mike Finan behind square.

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Aussie Lynn signalled his intent with three boundaries from his first six balls but Gay (30 from 27 balls) holed out to long-on as the Steelbacks reached halfway at 77 for two.

The remainder of the innings was one of increasing carnage for the home bowlers, Lynn and Zaib taking the total to 129 for two after 15 overs, Lynn getting lucky on 37 when he was caught off a Finan no-ball, before the final five overs piled on another 81.

The third-wicket pair took turns to clear the ropes as Tom Scriven and Matt Salisbury took the brunt of their assault, the former conceding 22 in one Salisbury’s worst over costing 23, including back-to-back sixes by Zaib, who followed his partner in being caught off a no-ball, on 54.

After they were parted two balls into the 19th over as Lynn picked out long-on, four more wickets followed, Finan dismissing Tye with his next ball, before Zaib was caught on the boundary.

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Willey was run out and Broad found the fielder on the cover point boundary to give Scriven some consolation in the 20th, although Broad’s 10 off four balls had taken the total past 200.

The Foxes had twice chased more than 211 to win in the Blast, including 219 against the Steelbacks in 2018, but on this season’s form it looked a tall order, more so after Handscomb was comprehensively bowled by Willey for three in the opening over.

By the end of the powerplay, the home side were 30 for four, Rishi Patel caught behind attempting to ramp Sanderson, who then bowled Ackermann first ball and had Wiaan Mulder edging behind.

They might have been five down had a Sanderson direct hit been reviewed after Rehan, on six, was judged to have made his ground by the on-field umpire.

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Rehan, sent in to open the innings with Handscomb, made the most of his reprieve, clubbing Freddie Heldreich for three sixes in an over, but with Nick Welch also caught behind, at the halfway stage in the chase the Foxes at 74 for five were scoring at barely half the required rate of 13.4 runs per over.

The young England all-rounder - about to join up with Ben Stokes’s squad ahead of the second Ashes Test - looked set to celebrate with a half-century only for his luck to run out on 49 as he miscued Broad to cover, the South Africa-born German international following up by bowling Scriven in the same over.

Swindells, who had helped Rehan add 66 for the sixth wicket as the sole highlight in the Foxes innings, perished on 20 when he helped one into the gloves of McManus.

Finan belted Heldreich for six but was stumped next ball as the ninth wicket fell in the 16th over before Salisbury was caught at midwicket to put the home crowd out of their misery in the 17th.