David Willey’s 60 from 27 balls saw Northamptonshire comfortable chase 167 to record their first victory of the Natwest t20 Blast against Derbyshire at Wantage Road.
After Wayne Madsen had carried his bat for an unbeaten 77 to take Derbyshire to 166-7, Willey smashed six fours and four sixes as the hosts made short work of the target, Shahid Afridi also hitting 34 as they cruised to victory with 13 balls to spare.
Willey, who had been released from the England ODI squad at the request of Northants’ coach David Ripley, took two wickets, including Tillakaratne Dilshan without score, and a run out, before smashing his third t20 half century in 21 balls to get the run chase off to a flyer.
He fell in the eighth over, only to be replaced by Afridi, who hit a six and five fours in his 17-ball cameo to ensure they could cruise over the line, and after scoring just 25 runs in his three previous innings, Willey was delighted to find his range.
“We did need to win that,” he said. “Fortunately 166 was just below par and I haven’t scored many runs in the competition this year, so I just thought I’d go out and have a dip and fortunately today was my day, it came off, and we got a comfortable win.
“It’s always easy when someone goes out there and has a bit of luck, it does make a run chase a lot easier so today was my day. Another day, Richard Levi could go well or Cobby [Josh Cobb] does the job, but it was my day today.
“We’ve got a powerful side. It’s all very well having those guys that look good on paper but we need to make sure we perform out there. They say about seven [wins] gets you through so we need to keep winning now.”
Northants lost Richard Levi for five in the first over of the chase, but Willey got into full flow in the fourth over, smashing Dilshan for three huge sixes, one of which landed on the roof of the Ken Turner Stand, 24 in total coming off the over.
Consecutive boundaries off Nathan Rimmington followed, and despite losing Josh Cobb for 11, caught at deep square leg off Wayne White, Willey hit two more fours from the rest of the fifth over to race to 50.
A fourth six followed onto the roof of the indoor school off Chesney Hughes, but Tony Palladino’s first delivery saw him hole out to long-on.
Shahid Afridi replaced him at the crease and after a couple of quiet overs soon found his range, driving Hughes over cover for his only maximum in a brief but crucial cameo in his final game at Wantage Road.
He picked out Billy Godleman on the midwicket boundary off Shiv Thakor, but by that point Northants had 131-4 from 13 and the target was down to less than a run a ball.
While Willey and Afridi provided the fireworks, Northants’ captain Alex Wakely anchored the innings with his unbeaten 31 from 32 balls, only finding the boundary once. Steven Crook hit Nathan Rimmington for a four and six to take the hosts over the line in the 18th over.
Earlier Derbyshire were indebted to captain Durston, who batted throughout the visitors innings to carry them to a good total having slipped to 38-3 at the end of the powerplay.
Dilshan was bowled by Willey attempting a scoop with the final ball of the opening over, before Crook removed Hughes (five) and Wayne Madsen with the first two deliveries of the sixth, and his first over.
Scott Elstone helped lead the recovery with Durston, playing the major role in their partnership of 52, hitting four fours and slog-sweeping Afridi for his only maximum in a useful 37 from 25 balls.
Yet he fell to Afridi, who finished with 1-28 from four, and despite Durston reaching 50 in 41 balls, the visitors lost regular wickets, Godleman (two) caught down the leg side off Kleinveldt and Thakor (15) run out by Willey at long-on, having attempted a third off a misfield.
Tom Poynton hit Willey for consecutive sixes in the final over to take Derbyshire to 166 with 16 off seven balls, but Willey and Afridi ensured the visitors would fall to a fourth defeat in five games.