David Willey smashed the fastest t20 century by an Englishmen, in just 40 balls, to fire Northants to the Natwest t20 Blast finals day as the Steelbacks beat the Sussex Sharks by seven wickets at Hove.
Northants were chasing 165 to win after Maheaua Jayawardene and Chris Nash made half centuries, but Willey ensured they reached the target with four overs to spare, hitting ten sixes in total, to go with seven fours as he moved from 50 to 100 in just 13 balls.
The all-rounder, who also took 3-27, century was the eighth quickest in the history of t20 cricket, and the second quickest in this country, beating Scott Stryisis effort for Sussex in their previous t20 quarter final at Hove.
Michael Yardy bore the brunt of the punishment, as 34 came off one over, Willey hitting seven consecutive sixes at the sea end, the last of which brought up his hundred off Tymal Mills, and although he holed out off the very next ball, the target was down to just 29 from nine overs.
It had all looked very different for Sussex as despite losing Luke Wright, who miscued Willey to mid-on without score, were perfectly placed on 87-1 from nine overs thanks to Jayawardene and Nash.
The Sri Lanka showed his class, hitting nine fours and a six, which an aray of flicks and scoops, playing the major role in a stand of 86 with Nash for the second wicket.
However a magic moment from Josh Cobb turned the game on it’s head, as he brilliantly caught Jayawardene’s scoop shot one handed diving at fine leg, inches from the rope, and from that point Northants never looked back.
George Bailey followed LBW in the following over off Stone and although Nash reached his own half century, he fell shown after as Rory Kleinveldt (2-28) took two wickets in the 15th over, Nash trapped LBW before Craig Cachopa played on.
Chris Jordon looked out of sorts in making six off 12 balls before skying Willey to mid-off, Northants restricting Sussex to only 68 runs in the second half of the innings as a potential score of 200 turned into 165.
Willey only needed until the 13th ball of the innings to signal his intentions, lifting Jordan’s first delivery for six, the three further fours from the over just the start, Chris Liddle was smashed out the ground as Willey took a liking to anyone bowling from the Sea End at Hove, Richard Levi bringing up 50 inside five overs.
Levi hit two sixes of his own from Liddle’s next over as he made 24, but fell to the first ball of the eighth, LBW by Will Beer attempting a reveres sweep to end an opening stand of 74.
If Sussex thought losing his opening partner would slow Willey down were badly mistaken as he took Michael Yardy, the former world t20 winning playing what would be his final game in the format, to pieces in the following over.
The first ball sailed over midwicket as Willey reached his half century from 27 balls, and although the second just fell short, the next four all cleared the rope as Willey peppered the leg stump boundary as Yardy crumbled.
Tymal Mils was the next to try his hand from the Sea End but had no better luck as Willey made it seven consecutive sixes from that end, and after taking a single, hit his tenth maximum in the crowd to reach three figures for the first time in his t20 career, doubling his total in 13 balls and less than three overs.
He fell on his sword of the next ball, eventually holing out off Mills to the midwicket boundary, but his incredible onslaught meant Northants’ required 29 off nine overs.
They cruised to the line, losing Ben Duckett in the process, but Captain Alex Wakely hit the winning runs, and after lifting the trophy in 2013, will be leading his side back out at Edgbaston for the County’s third appearance in Finals Day.