Levi finally hits his stride to send Northants closer to quarter-finals

Levi finally hits his stride to send Northants closer to quarter-finals

Result: Northamptonshire Steelbacks 115-1 (9.3/10 overs, Levi 67*) beat Leicestershire 111-4 (10 overs, Elliott 56) by nine wickets, at Wantage Road

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Levi's decisive contribution was welcome to both himself and his team-mates

Richard Levi smashed an unbeaten 67 from just 28 balls as Northants Steelbacks made Leicestershire Foxes’ target of 112 in 10 overs look simple, the hosts reaching a nine wicket win with nine balls to spare at Wantage Road.

After rain caused a two hour 20 minute delay and halved the available overs, Grant Elliott’s 56 off 29 balls, in partnership with Ben Raine’s unbeaten 32 looked to have taken Leicestershire to an imposing total of 111-4 from their ten overs.

However, Levi and Josh Cobb brought up 50 in 20 balls, and despite Cobb falling, Levi smashed nine fours and two sixes as the hosts needed only 51 balls to reach the target, Ben Duckett finishing with 24 not out.

The win moved Northants to third place in the North Group and three points clear of fifth place after a sixth victory in eight – one of which was also a no result – while defeat all but ends Leicestershire’s hopes of reaching the last eight.

Levi had scored 270 runs in 10 games this season, yet without having a major innings of note, and the big South African was delighted with an innings that he said blew the opposition away.

“A ten-over game kind of gives you the licence to keep going and the freedom to go after the ball,” he said. “We always knew that if we got off to a good start it was going to be quite tight as the wicket wasn’t conducive to hitting over the top.

“I’ve got a couple of 30s and 40s at 110 and 120 [strike rate] but I haven’t really had an innings that has completely off and blown a team away, so it was good to get one of those. I dovetailed quite well with Cobby and then Ben came in and hit it in funny areas.

“We’re slowly but surely gaining momentum in the t20 and hopefully we can push on. It’s a funny thing – if you get a bit of momentum it sticks with you.”

Levi and Cobb allowed themselves a look at the first over which, bowled by debutant Zac Chappell, cost just five, but then exploded into life to reach 47 from three overs.

First Levi flicked Raine for three fours and a six over square leg as 22 came off the second, with Cobb almost matching him, taking Ollie Freckingham for five boundaries in the third, which cost 20.

After bring up the 50 stand in 20 balls, Cobb holed out at long-on off Tom Wells for a ten-ball 22, but Levi punished Chappell’s second over, with three more fours and a six over midwicket which brought up his 50 in just 19 balls.

At 75-1 off 5, Northants needed little more than a run-a-ball, as Leicestershire’s tactic of saving Clint McKay’s two overs until the death backfired. Ben Duckett hit a pair of boundaries as the Steelbacks cruised to the target.

Consecutive fours off Wells brought it down to seven off two overs and Levi duly hit McKay for two fours to seal a remarkable chase, which at the halfway point had looked a long way off after Elliott and Raine had put on a partnership of 76.

The visitors had slipped to 9-2 as Aadil Ali (4) and Ned Eckersley fell in the opening two overs, but Elliott soon found his range with a flat six over midwicket, the first of his three maximums.

Cosgrove fell for nine having slapped a Graeme White full toss to midwicket, but Raine slog-swept his first ball for six, hitting Josh Cobb for a maximum out of the ground two overs later. The pair kept clearing the ropes as five consecutive overs cost 14 or more.

At 89-3 with three overs remaining, Leicestershire looked posed for an even bigger score, but Northants pulled things back slightly as only 22 runs were added from the final 18 balls as the hosts’ death bowlers got it spot on again, Elliott run out off the final ball.

Although 112 appeared a more than decent total, Levi made a mockery of those thoughts as Northants smashed their way ever closer to a quarter-final place.

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