Mark Cosgrove and Cameron Delport starred as Leicesteshire’s experienced heads kept alive their hopes of qualifying from in the Natwest T20 Blast, beating Northamptonshire by 48 runs at Wantage Road, the Foxes first win in six games.
Since winning their opening four group games, Leicestershire had fallen to five defeats, with a washout in between, but Delport hit 59, followed by Mark Cosgrove’s 79 as the Foxes posted 193-5.
Adam Rossington hit 67 for the Steelbacks, who were well in the hunt at 103-2 from 12 overs, but spectacularly collapsed, Delport removing 3-19 with his medium pace as the hosts lost five wickets for eight runs, eventually falling well short.
The win sees Leicstershire move to 11 points, just two from the top four, and a campaign that looked to be coming off the rails now has hope, ahead of a crunch tie against Yorkshire at Grace Road tomorrow afternoon.
Northants meanwhile will be looking over their shoulders. Birmingham’s defeat at Trent Bridge means they remain second, but their cushion to fifth place is now a single point, as the North group looks set to go to the wire next week.
Steelbacks captain Alex Wakely pulled no punches in describing his sides poor display, but is hopeful they can bounce back at Yorkshire next Thursday, before finishing at home to Durham.
“We’ve been very poor tonight. It could hurt us with the run rate. That’s the frustrating thing for me tonight,” he said. “We’re still in a good position. If we can win one or two we’re pretty much going to be there.
“But tonight we haven’t put in a very good performance at all. We were poor with the ball and never got going with the back, apart from Rosso who played a superb innings to keep us in it.
“It’s the nature of T20. I’m happy we’ve got our bad performance out the way.
“We’ve got two crunch games next week. We’ve been pretty lucky: we’ve usually picked up wickets in the powerplay. Today we didn’t, and you’re always trying to claw it back.
“One of the things we’ve been good at at Northants is bouncing back from defeats, so hopefully we can do so again.”
For all of Leicestershire’s dominance pretty much throughout the contest, it could have been different had Cosgrove been run out when on just three.
Luke Ronchi and Delport had got the Foxes off to a flyer, adding 50 in the first five overs, Delport pulling Rory Kleivneldt for back to back sixes, before the latter fell to a fine Rob Keogh catch, running backwards from points.
With the score 58-1 from the powerplay, it was the next over when Cosgrove tried to drop and run into the off side, and the Australian had given up by the time Steven Crook reached the ball, but his throw on the turn was wide of the stumps.
Instead, Ronchi and Cosgrove could build on the opening stand as Northants once against struggled for penetration in the middle overs. Their lack of spin options was showing, as Ronchi added further maximums against Crook and Keogh.
Ronchi went to 50 in 30 balls, one of his more measured knocks, only to hole out as Sanderson returned.
Cosgrove carried on his way, and Wakely’s decision to bowl Zaif Saib’s left arm spin in the 15th over backfired as Cosgrove lifted two sixes to go to his half century.
Colin Ackermann, caught behind off Azharullah, and Luke Wells, comically run out by Gleeson in his follow through after keeper Rossington had missed, fell in quick succession. But Lewis Hill joined Cosgrove to add 30.
Gleeson was economical, as his last two overs cost five apiece, but it couldn’t stop the Foxes passing 190, Cosgrove with his fourth six off Azharullah in the last before being run out attempting to keep strike.
However, 193 would prove more than enough, as Northants never really recovered from falling to 19-2 in the third over.
Levi pulled Clint McKay for six in the opening over, but in the second toe ended a slog sweep off the spin of Callum Parkinson to hole out to deep midwicket for 12, before Duckett was trapped LBW to McKay second ball.
Rossington kept the boundary count flowing, eight inside the powerplay as the Steelbacks reached 54-2 and with Alex Wakely they kept hopes alive, going to the halfway point 85-2.
However, it only needed a tight couple of overs, and with 91 needed from 8 overs something had to give. Wakely couldn’t quite clear the leg side boundary, Wells taking the catch on the edge of the rope.
Rossington then also picked out Wells, this time at long-on off Delport, an even better catch leaning back on the edge of the rope. From that point the hosts capitulated, Rossington having hit 10 fours and a six in his 47 balls knock.
Keogh followed Rossington’s suit later in Delport’s over, to give Wells a third catch. Kleinveldt slapped Pillans to mid-off and, when Delport bowled Zaib sweeping, five wickets had fallen for eight runs in 17 balls.
The rest proved a formality as Steven Crook and Ben Sanderson played out the remaining five overs, only reducing the margin of defeat as the packed home crowd went off into the night.