Northants Steelbacks kept their hopes of a Royal London One-Day Cup quarter-final place alive with a seven-wicket win against Gloucestershire at the County Ground on Monday.
It was the Steelbacks’ third successive victory in the competition and it means that a victory at Yorkshire Vikings on Tuesday would take them into the last eight.
After Steven Crook’s four for 37 had helped dismiss Gloucestershire for 215, the Steelbacks looked to be cruising to victory thanks to Josh Cobb’s 58.
But once again they suffered a wobble with the bat before captain Alex Wakely and Kyle Coetzer steered the ship home.
The result means that despite three defeats in their opening four games, Wakely’s side travel to Yorkshire knowing the fixture is effectively a knock-out encounter.
At 111 for one, Northants looked to be making short work of the chase and securing themselves an early start on tonight’s trip up the M1.
However, they slipped to 170 for six before eventually reaching the target with nine overs to spare.
While the batting once again misfired, as it has so often in the campaign, it was another team effort from the bowlers to restrict Gloucestershire to a below-par total.
Olly Stone supported Crook with three wickets, including two in his first three balls, after the visitors had won the toss.
Rory Kleinveldt removed Chris Dent, bowled without score, in the third over, but it was the introduction of Stone in the eighth that saw Gloucestershire slip to 20 for three.
Will Tavare was trapped LBW by Stone’s first ball and his third burst through Geraint Jones’ defences.
Gareth Roderick and Benny Howell did a good rebuilding job to recover the innings from the precarious start, adding 89 to take the score past 100 by the halfway point of the innings.
But just when Roderick was looking to accelerate upon reaching 50, he ran himself out attempting a single that was never on for 57.
That saw Northants peg back the visitors once more, three further wickets falling in four overs as Kieran Noema-Barnett and Jack Taylor edged Crook to keeper Ben Duckett.
In between, Stone returned to find Matt Hammond’s edge, Richard Levi taking the catch at second slip.
James Fuller hit five boundaries in an eighth-wicket stand of 49 with Howell, who continued to play the supporting role with a half-century coming up in 85 balls, before Crook came back to find Fuller’s edge.
Craig Miles followed in the same fashion to give Crook his fourth wicket.
Howell was the last man to fall, off the final ball of the penultimate over, skying a catch off Kleinveldt to fall for 80.
That meant Northants were in the driving seat at the halfway point and the position of control was strengthened further by an opening stand of 80 by Cobb and David Willey.
However, on a pitch that had been used for both days of the Australia tour game, both found timing difficult in a partnership that was more about the end result than how it came about.
Willey, who smashed a sensational 100 from just 40 balls in last week’s NatWest T20 quarter-final win it Sussex, used his power to race into the 20s while Cobb slowly got himself going as the partnership passed 50 in the 12th over.
Willey clubbed Taylor for six over long-off, but fell for 41 in the following over, trapped LBW to Howell’s first legal delivery, following an opening wide.
Despite his dismissal, the Steelbacks seemed to remain in control, as Levi hit Howell for three consecutive fours before pulling him for six in a quickfire 25.
But the South African’s dismissal, LBW to Taylor with the score on 111, saw Northants’ victory cruise run into choppy waters.
Cobb passed 50 for the third time in the competition, off 68 balls, but Duckett was caught and bowled by Taylor.
Cobb then picked out Taylor on the leg-side boundary and Rob Keogh made it three wickets for six runs as he gave Taylor a second return catch without score.
Crook took the aggressive approach, hitting two fours and a six in a brisk 19, but fell on his sword, slog-sweeping Taylor straight to deep square leg, and suddenly Northants found themselves still 46 adrift with only four wickets remaining.
However, in Kyle Coetzer, they found an experienced head to come in at number eight and after a frenetic period, he ensured the remaining runs were achieved with little danger.
Coetzer pulled Fuller for six as he ended 23 not out in his first white ball innings of the season for Northants, while Wakely finished things in style, with a six and three fours in his unbeaten 31 that ensured his team are still alive and kicking ahead of tomorrow’s decisive clash.