Northamptonshire booked their place in the quarter finals of the Natwest t20 Blast after a near perfect batting display saw them beat the Birmingham Bears by 74 runs at Wantage Road, Graeme White taking a hat-trick to seal the win.
Adam Rossington’s 85 got the Steelbacks off to a flyer, before Alex Wakely hit a 20 ball half century to take his side to 200-5, their second highest total in t20 at Wantage Road.
Ian Bell’s classy 62 led the chase, but was he was fifth man out, the Bears spectacularly collapsing in the face of an ever rising required rate, six wickets falling for seven runs at one stage, including White’s treble, as the visitors were dismissed for 126.
White’s hat-trick was only Northants second in t20, after David Willey’s title sealing treble in 2013. The spinner he hadn’t realised until it was announced to the crowd, but was delighted with the win that sealed a quarter final place after two defeats.
“It happened so quick and when you’re running over from the other side of the field, you’re paying attention on that front so I didn’t really know it was on,” he admitted. “But it’s nice, a good win, we needed that win after a couple of losses.
“It’s been coming out well all year, especially in White ball, got a lot more experience now and a bit wiser, I’m pleased, just happy we’ve won and we’ve started that winning momentum.
“Adam’s been threatening to do it all tournament, been batting fantastically well, we knew it was going to come off one time and he’s done it tonight. Alex came in and batted fantastically well, struck the ball so clean, we know he can do that.
“We’ve been playing some really good cricket in our white ball game, we’re a dangerous side, we just need to keep our confidence. We’ve had a couple of setbacks, but now we’ve got ourselves playing the kind of cricket we’re used to playing, especially at home, teams know if they’re coming here in a quarter final it’s going to be a tough game.”
After Rossington’s career best, his 85 coming from 51 deliveries in a county record opening stand of 103 with Richard Levi, the Northants innings looked to be faltering as four wickets fell in as many overs before Wakely’s 53 from 23 helped take 68 from the final five to reach the magical 200 mark.
Rossington exploding into life with four consecutive boundaries off Oliver Hannon-Dalby from the final over of the powerplay,. Then, taking the attack to the spinners, Josh Poysden hit into the upper tier of the old pavilion in passing 50 in 29 balls, before two further maximums came off Atiq Javid.
Levi had contributed 31 to the century stand, but fell in the 11th over, brilliantly caught at long-on by Sam Hain diving backwards, sparking a mini collapse, as Josh Cobb edged his first delivery behind off Aaron Thomason, who then ended Rossington’s knock, caught at long-on, and the platform he has set looked like it might have been wasted when Seekkuge Prasanna holed out off his second ball.
However Wakely’s remarkable burst ensured that wasn’t the case, the Northants’ skippers scored 12 from his first 10 deliveries, but was raising hit bat 10 balls later, taking Clarke was two fours and a six in the 18th over before pulling consecutive sixes off Keith Barker.
The Birmingham Bears were left seeking a record run chase, and Bell was soon at his fluent best after surviving an early life, Prasanna failing to cling onto a sharp chance at fine leg, the ball going for four to spark a run of six boundaries in seven balls as both the third and fourth overs cost 17.
Sam Hain also hit four fours in his run a ball 22 but, after a promising opening stand of 60, the match turned in the hosts favours as Kleinveldt had Hain caught at fine leg, and Matthew Wade edged the next delivery to slip.
Bell went to his half century off 30 balls, but tight bowling saw the required rate up to 12 an over at the halfway stage with 121 still required, and the pressure told as Laurie Evans was bowled trying to swing Prasanna into the leg side.
Clarke added 19 with Bell, but when both fell to consecutive deliveries, the game was up. Evans was stumped attempting to reverse sweep Prasanna, four balls after Rossington had missed an earlier stumping attempt, before Bell’s classy innings ended as he top edged a slog sweep off Graeme White.
The Bears fell in a heap after that, with seven wickets falling in 15 balls, White taking a hat-trick that happened so fast most inside the ground missed it.
Javid was trapped LBW from the last ball of White’s 14th over , and after Prasanna has Thomason stumped in the next, White returned to see Patel well caught by Richard Gleeson at mid-on, before Keith Barker charged first ball and was stumped.
White finished with 4-20, the PA having to announce the hat-trick to the crowd, and the end quickly followed, Hannon-Dalby last man out, Kleinveldt also claiming 3-14, as the Steelbacks moved closer to a home tie.
Birmingham meanwhile will have to wait to seal their quarter final place, and captain Ian Bell felt his side hadn’t been aggressive enough at the start of the match.
“You can’t afford to ease yourself in and I felt for the first time this season we went out there too nice, too friendly, you’ve got to be aggressive and set the ton, they’ve got good hitters at the top of the order and felt we were too nice.
“At half time I said to the boys those kind of totals are chaseable these days but I’m disappointed we’ve collapsed like we have as we were ticking along nicely.
“The guys were giving it everything but it was up to 20 an over at one point, it’s happened a little bit too much for us this season but it is what it is.”