Durham moved into a quarter final place in the Natwest T20 Blast’s North group, as they maintained their unbeaten home record with victory over Northants Steelbacks at Emirates Durham ICG.
After sending Northants into bat, the Steelbacks were restricted to 43-2 from eight overs and, despite Josh Cobb’s fourth half century of the season, the visitors could only recover to a below par 149-5.
Durham looked to be cruising to the total at 77-0, thanks to 40 from both Phil Mustard and Mark Stoneman, but four wickets in three overs – Seekkuge Prasanna with 3-24 – kept Northants’ hopes alive, only for Keaton Jennings and Michael Richardson to see the hosts over the line with nine balls to spare.
After losing only one of their opening nine games in the competition, back to back defeats mean the Steelbacks are now looking over their shoulder as they look to claim a quarter final place, whilst Durham are now up to third in the group.
Cobb and Duckett, who finished unbeaten on 48, did their best to take Northants to a competitive total with a partnership of 95 in 12 overs, but they were left to rue a start that saw them restricted to 31 runs off the powerplay, all six overs bowled by Chris Rushworth and Mark Wood.
Richard Levi was bowled by Rushworth from the game’s opening delivery and, with the pressure building in the fourth over, Adam Rossington attempted to pull Wood only to top edge it high in the air.
The powerplay brought only three boundaries, and it wasn’t until the spin of Scott Borthwick was introduced in the ninth over that the Steelbacks found some momentum, Cobb lifting the first six high over midwicket.
That was the start of a recovery that saw 57 come in six overs. Cobb’s half century came in 40 deliveries, making him the first batsman to hit four fifties in this year’s competition, whilst Duckett started fluently but couldn’t quite find top gear, hitting five boundaries in his 42 ball innings.
Wood returned to dent the momentum, his final over costing four as he finished with 1-19, and the stand was then broken as Cobb was bowled by Jennings, before Steven Crook was stumped for a single three balls later.
Rory Kleinveldt clubbed two fours and a huge straight six on his way to 23 off 15 and at one stage 160 looked possible, but Rushworth and Paul Coughlin combined well at the death, five singles coming from the 20th over with Kleinveldt caught at fine leg from the final ball.
Unlike in recent weeks Richard Gleeson and Moin Ashraf couldn’t find the early breakthroughs needed to pressurise the hosts, Mark Stoneman and Phil Mustard taking a steady approach to the chase.
The pair also only hit three boundaries on their way to 41-0 from the powerplay, but in stark contrast to Northants’ approach, used their knowledge of the large outfield at the Riverside to run twos and threes that kept them ahead of the rate.
When Steven Crook’s only over cost 17, Mustard lifting a six and two fours, Durham appeared to be cruising but Mustard tried to continue the assault off Prasanna and holed out to Crook at long-off for 40.
A frantic three over spell followed, as Northants claimed four wickets in 16 balls, with a dropped catch and missed run out thrown in for good measure. England star Ben Stokes, playing as a batsman only, followed two balls after Mustard, LBW sweeping Prasanna, before Kleinveldt removed Gordan Muchall first ball in the same fashion.
Stoneman had survived the drop by Gleeson before Muchall’s departure, but his reprieve was short lived, as he also went leg before, missing a reserve sweep off Prasanna and Northants saw their opening, with 50 required from 36 balls.
They couldn’t grasp it however as Jennings lifted Kleinveldt for six over cover and the equation was reduced to a run a ball from the final four overs, Jennings also hitting three fours as he added an unbeaten 36 to his earlier wickets, whilst Richardson was 22 not out, seeing Durham home with nine balls to spare, Gleeson bowling five wides to finish the contest.