Three overs of wreckage by Rory Kleinveldt and Steven Crook which yielded 60 runs off 14 balls was the turning point of an engrossing encounter at New Road as Northants Steelbacks dethroned Worcestershire Rapids by two runs.
South African all-rounder Kleinveldt slammed 42 invaluable runs off 12 balls to set a challenging target of 193 and returned to deliver two economical overs at the death when Rapids were comfortable during their chase. Crook made 56 which included four sixes while Kleinveldt’s decimation had six sixes to it.
Steelbacks were without David Willey for the Rapids’ run chase as the England star had to be sent back to Northampton for a scan after colliding with Jack Shantry and injuring his ankle while batting.
This defeat ends a four-game winning streak for the Rapids against Steelbacks but still leaves them close to the top of the North Group – tied on 10 points with Leicestershire and two points behind the Birmingham Bears.
Worcestershire needed 14 off the last over bowled by Azharullah and they had the best man to shovel that in Ross Whiteley (41 not out in 29 balls) but five scampered twos later, which left the batsman visibly exhausted, the final ball could only be scampered for a single as Azharullah held his nerve.
The chase got off in the worst possible way for the home side with Moeen Ali slapping the first ball into the lap of cover. Tom Kohler-Cadmore and Daryl Mitchell combined aggression and intelligence to build a productive stand of 75 off 47 balls in a recovering second wicket partnership.
Kohler-Cadmore made 36 to complement Mitchell’s 34, before the latter was out in the unluckiest way backing up too far. The stage was set for Rapids’ wielders Colin Munro and Whiteley and both made conscious efforts to keep Rapids’ run going. Munro unleashed his customary reverse sweep to good effect and was beginning to switch the mood when he holed out to long on for 33. Ben Cox provided adequate support to Whiteley in a 54-run stand for the sixth wicket but Kleinveldt and Azharullah both traced the target holes to black out any attempts of boundaries.
After being put into bat, Northants got off to a flier thanks to Willey and Richard Levi extending their arms to crushing rewards. 50 was raised in the fourth over as Shantry and Joe Leach were treated with no respect. Willey, on an all-time high after his excursions with England, smashed Saeed Ajmal’s first two offerings down the ground for two sixes.
The sizeable crowd that turned up had given up on an easy ride akin to last week against Derbyshire by now, but Ajmal had his revenge when Willey (31 off 12 balls) scooped a mistimed sweep into Shantry at short fine leg.
Ben Duckett failed to clear cover off Brett D’Oliveira’s first ball and Josh Cobb fell short from a direct hit by D’Oliveira from point.
Ali, Ed Barnard and Ajmal combined to put the brakes on the run-rate and had Steelbacks in trouble at 132/7 after 17 overs. But what seemed a manageable total was ripped apart by Kleinveldt and as they head back to Northampton tonight, they will have good news in store for Willey.