Record run chase keeps Steelbacks in the hunt for the quarters

Adam Rossington saw the Steelbacks over the line with a vital innings of 34
Adam Rossington saw the Steelbacks over the line with a vital innings of 34

It might still be a tall ask, but the Northamptonshire Steelbacks are still in the Natwest t20 Blast.

Victories for the Yorkshire Vikings and Birmingham Bears didn’t help their cause but the gap from the top four remains at two points which isn’t all bad.

The likelihood is that all three of their remaining games, the first of which is against Worcestershire Rapids in a week’s time, will need to be won but they’re still in the mix and that’s something to hang on to.

And the latest triumph came on the back of an outstanding run chase.

After the Derbyshire Falcons had racked up 191-6, the Steelbacks, putting to one side the average batting efforts of last week, played with freedom and decisiveness as they recorded the highest successful pursuit in their Twenty20 history.

Having been put in, the Falcons’ Chesney Hughes barely located the ball in his short stint before he edged David Willey behind in the third over but this just cleared the decks for Gareth Cross.

In collaboration with Marcus North, the pair, without doing anything particularly extravagant, motored along at a good rate before the Australian top edged a slog sweep at James Middlebrook to deep midwicket just before the halfway point had been reached.

By this time the score had climbed to 77, 54 of which was taken before the fielding restrictions ended, and it provided the visitors with an excellent base for a late assault.

Cross, with his bottom hand prevalent, got to within two of his half century before swatting Steven Crook, just after the 100 had been attained, to cover and Wayne Madsen fell in the same over as he uppercut to third man.

Those two dismissals put the brakes on to some degree, even at such an advanced stage of the innings and it wasn’t long before Alex Hughes was sent packing, also by Crook.

But the strange decision to give Graeme White another over, the 17th of the innings, enabled the visitors to regain some momentum as Tom Knight launched successive sixes over midwicket.

This was the start of some clean and powerful hitting as, led by Knight who finished with an unbeaten 18-ball 44, 63 was thrashed off the last 24 deliveries.

That meant what could have been a manageable 160 became an intimidating 191-6 and gave the chase a far sterner appearance.

Cliched as it might be, a decent start is vital in such a pursuit and Richard Levi, on a run of three runs in four outings, served one up.

Two cover-driven boundaries in Mark Turner’s first over got him going and this was followed up by a pair of sixes in Matt Higginbottom’s initial offering.

So much depends on the Steelbacks’ opening pair with their cricket takes on a more robust air when they come off and when the powerplay finished the score was identical, albeit without any damage in the wicket column.

While Willey wasn’t in the most fluent of touch, the South African dragged him along with a display of leg-side dominated savagery and when he got to 50 he had only used up 28 balls.

His fun lasted until just past the halfway point when, with 69 out of 96 to his name, he pulled David Wainwright to the midwicket boundary.

That suddenly added a different complexion to proceedings which was merely exaggerated by the departures of Kyle Coetzer and Crook in the next couple of overs.

While Willey was in the odds would’ve been marginally on the hosts’ side, however, they lengthened when, attempting to repeat the enormous six he had hoisted a ball earlier, he was caught on the leg-side boundary.

That left the equation as 57 from the final quarter of the overs,a tricky ask that was eased considerably by Adam Rossington who took no time at all to find his range.

A pair of meaty leg-side sixes and some more traditional fare quickly reduced this down and although he and Ben Duckett fell in the 19th over bowled by Greg Cork, White promptly hit the first two balls he faced over the boundary to leave the two needed from the final six deliveries a formality.