Northamptonshire’s Rolls Royce, Richard Gleeson, produced another devastating new ball burst alongside Rory Kleinveldt to banish Lancashire as the Steelbacks completed a 11 run victory.
Chasing a more than achievable 159, Lancashire suffered a powerplay capitulation losing five wickets to fall to 25-5 in a crazy opening to their innings, Gleeson and Kleinveldt sharing four wickets win a run out to cap it off.
Lancashire’s race looked done but Ryan McLaren had other ideas, sharing a sixth wicket stand of 98 with Dane Vilas, leaving 49 needed off 30 balls.
But Vilas fell as, although McLaren recorded a career best 77 from 50 balls, there would be no further support from the tail and, despite hitting the first two balls of the final over for six, there would be no Carlos Brathwaite v Ben Stokes moment for Rory Kleveldt.
McLaren’s heroics prevented what was looking like a heavy defeat after an action packed powerplay, that first saw Gleeson clean up Liam Livingstone in the first over before Kleinveldt removed Aaron Lilly and Karl Brown to leave Lancashire 10-3 in the second.
Jos Buttler scooped a maximum off Gleeson in the third, only to be dropped at fine leg attempting a repeat of the next ball. It wouldn’t prove costly though as, with the first ball of his third and the fifth over, Gleeson sent back the England ‘keepers off stump.
Steven Croft ensured all the top five would depart with single figures to their name as he ran himself out in the sixth, a Kleinveldt maiden as the South African conceded just two from his opening three overs.
McLaren’s innings ensured Northants coach David Ripley was sweating a bit towards the conclusion, but afterwards he praised Gleeson and believed his side deserved the victory despite a slighty under pay batting effort, bouncing back from last ball defeat to Birmingham Bears 48 hours previously.
“I think we deserved the win,” Ripley said, “how we came out with the powerplay, with our bowling. I thought “we can’t lose this game” but it got tight and it was a great partnership; half an hour later we could lose.
“It was a high quality partnership that nearly wrestled the game back in their favour, but I’m really pleased as everyone was down on Tuesday. We came out with a narrow defeat and was important we bounced back.
“We were a bit under par with that score, so it was important that we came out and fought. That powerplay was sensational.
“Richard Gleeson just looks like a Rolls Royce at the moment. He’s got good pace, great control; the yorkers are coming out at will and he’s on fire.”
The Steelbacks effort with the bat was held together by Richard Levi’s 71 as he continued a fine return from concussion that ruled him out of the opening five games of the season.
However he has been making up for lost time ever since, and has now scored 280 runs in five innings in this season’s blast.
“He’s been great,” Ripley added. “So consistent in a format that’s unbelievable to be consistent in.”
There was one horrible moment during the Lancashire collapse as the second wicket of Aaron Lilly saw a sickening collision between Levi, running back from slip at Gleeson haring in from third man.
Levi took a fine diving catch and someone held on despite crashing into Gleeson’s onrushing legs.
Given his recent concussion history there was some concern as he stayed down, but was able to leave the field unaided and emerged afterwards to sign autographs, with Ripley hopefully he’ll be fit to travel to Worcestershire on Saturday.
Northants will not want to be without his batting, though, as he proved the only batsman until McLaren to truly get to grips with a Wantage Road pitch being used for the second time in a week.
Adam Rossington produced another cameo alongside Levi but, after hitting five fours and a six in his 16-ball 29, holed out off Junaid Khan promoting a four over spell of 11 runs and two wickets, Ben Duckett bowled by McLaren for a five ball duck.
Levi pulled sixes off successive Matt Parkinson and Steven Parry overs as he tried to get some momentum back into the innings, but didn’t go to 50 until the 16 from McLaren, which cost 25 as Levi hit three fours and a six to go with a no ball.
They couldn’t capitalise on that, however, as Levi fell. Rory Kleinveldt followed soon after, and the rest of the innings proved a struggled summed up by Alex Wakely’s 37 ball unbeaten 35.
158 looked short at half-time but six overs later it appeared more than enough, until McLaren and Vilas had other ideas.
The pair initially rebuilt, but with 100 needed off nine overs, both took fours and sixes off Rob Keogh to get Steelbacks’ nerves twiching a little bit. When 23 came off overs 14 and 15th combined, the pair remained together, and 49 off five looked like game on.
But it always only needed one wicket, and when Vilas hit Azharullah to long-on to go for 40, the game was up. Gleeson returned and produced another fine yorker to clean up Jordan Clark, before Buck removed Parry.
26 were needed from the final over and McLaren had time for two more defiant blows, but he couldn’t follow it up and the Steelbacks crept home after one of the more bonkers run chases you are likely to see.