Moeen Ali smashed 90, his highest t20 score as Worcestershire posted 211-3 to beat Northamptonshire by 14 runs in a high scoring game as Wantage Road, with Josh Cobb’s 80 in vain for the hosts.
Ali and Daryl Mitchell, who were dropped on 0 & 1 respectively, shared 131 for the opening wicket, Mitchell making 43, Ali eventually departing 10 short of a century in his 50 ball innings, as the visitors finished with the highest ever t20 score at Wantage Road.
Cobb’s 80, also his highest score in the shortest form, gave Northants hope, with support from Richard Levi (42) and a brief cameo from Shahid Afridi, who hit 15 off six balls, but when he and Cobb fell within three balls from Saeed Ajmal in the 18th over, Northants’ hopes were up.
Ali and Mitchell’s opening stand lasted close to 13 overs but it could have been so different had Rory Kleinveldt held onto a pair of slip catches off David Willey in the opening three overs.
After an opening wide, Ali edged the first legitimate ball with the South African dropping a regulation slip catch, and then Mitchell, who had one at the time, was also put down, a harder chance but very catchable.
The pair took 41 from the final three overs of the Powerplay to reach 52 without loss and went from there, with 10 of the final 14 overs going for more than 10 runs. Ali reached a 32-ball half-century with his second six, sparking a spell of four overs for 57 in the normally quiet middle overs.
Some uninspired bowling allowed Ali in particular to pull, clip and drive his way past his previous highest score of 85, and look set for a century until Alex Wakely plucked a great catch at cover to remove him, having hit 11 fours to go with his five sixes.
Mitchell had fallen, bowled by Afridi having hit six fours in his 30-ball innings in the previous over but the two wickets didn’t dent the visitors’ momentum.
Colin Munro reverse-swept Afridi into the stands but holed out to deep midwicket off Willey, however Tom Kohler-Cadmore and Ross Whiteley added 38 in the final three overs to take Worcester to their highest total away from home, finishing unbeaten on 30 and 20 respectively.
Needing their highest ever run chase, Northants lost David Willey in the third over to Joe Leach, but Levi and Cobb shared 55 in 31 balls to give the hosts a hope of a unlikely chase, Levi clubbing a six and six fours in his 28-ball 42.
Cobb meanwhile was quickly finding his range, pulling Jack Shantry for six, while Saeed Ajmal’s return to English cricket was greeted with 26 from his opening two overs, Cobb hitting his second six. The Pakistani came back to trap Levi LBW for the crucial breakthrough, however.
Cobb reached his first white ball fifty for Northants with his fourth six from his 31 balls, but while he kept finding the boundary, Ajmal’s third over cost 19, Alex Wakely struggled, making 19 off 21, with only one four, thanks to a horrific Ajmal misfield.
The Steelbacks skipper was eventually bowled by Leach in the 17th over, brining Afridi to the crease with 57 needed from 23, but in typical Afridi fashion he played out two dot balls before launching Leach for back to back sixes to give Northants hope.
Three came off the next ball but despite having conceded 44 in three overs, Mitchell’s gamble to bring back Ajmal worked as Afridi hit the next one miles in the air but straight to Ali at long on. Cobb smashed his sixth six from the next ball but the game was up for the hosts when he also picked out Ali from the next delivery, Ajmal finishing with 3/52 after an indifferent display.
Jack Shantry wrapped up the win with the wickets of Kleinveldt and Rob Keogh in the penultimate over, and despite Northants reaching their second highest score on their home ground, they fell 14 runs short to fall to a third successive defeat, while Worcestershire have now won two and lost one.