Moin Ashraf took three wickets in his first ten balls on his Northamptonshire debut to power the Steelbacks back to the top of the Natwest t20 Blast North group, cruising to a 26 win victory over Durham, after Josh Cobb’s 68 saw them post 161-9
Ashraf joined the club on a short term deal last week and his three early strikes, combined with a wicket from Richard Gleeson, left the Jets in disarray at 9-4. Cobb had led the way in Northants total of 161-9, with Paul Coughlin claiming a hat-trick with the final three balls of the innings.
Coughlin’s treble, the first in the Blast this season, meant he finished with figures of 5-41, but it would end up being in a losing cause as his team mates’ top order collapse saw the chase all but over inside the powerplay, the Jets eventually limping to 135-8, Paul Collingwood with a defiant 38.
The win for the Steelbacks came after Thursday’s Old Trafford washout, and the three points in two days are enough to take them back above Worcestershire at the top of the North group on run-rate, both sides having played six games, Worcs having seen their Friday night game at Leicester abandoned.
For Ashraf, it was his first t20 match at county level since 2013, and after finishing with 3-15 from three overs he admitted he was delighted to have been given another opportunity.
“It was tough being released by Yorkshire, my home county. I have a lot of friends there and that was a tough period of my life,” he said. “But my friends and family helped me through it and I wanted to give it another crack, having spoken to Rips [David Ripley] he said he believed and had faith in me.
“Playing a lot of t20 cricket for Yorkshire on the big staged helped me, but not going to lie I was feeling it a bit today. But these things happen, I overcame that and hit the stops I wanted.
“It was a great start, not only for myself but the team. We came out with great intensity, we got a bit more swing than we expected and it worked for us today, we put on a stellar performance with bat and ball tonight.
“I thought we’d got enough. Having spoken to the batters, I thought we batted exceptionally well. One of the things that’s stood out was the incredible positivity we have with the bat; we look to take the fight to the opposition and that intent transferred to the ball.
“The intensity we have early doors, Glees picking up that early wicket, that gave me confidence to hit my straps and that’s exactly what I did.”
It’s often said one man’s injury is another’s opportunity and Ashraf certainly grabbed his with both hands. Parachuted into the team following injuries to Olly Stone and Rory Kleinveldt, with Seekkuge Prasanna also missing on Sri Lanka duty, he took little time to make an impression.
Gleeson had already removed Mark Stoneman, chopping on in the opening over, but then Ashraf took second stage. His second ball found swing and the edge of Jack Burnham, and the fourth saw Michael Richardson get a leading edge to cover.
When Phil Mustard skied to Crook in Ashraf’s following over, the Durham top order had departed having scored just two runs between them, Stoneman, Burnham and Richardson all failing to score.
From that point onwards, Durham were never in the hunt chasing a score that had looked only par, Cobb leading the way for the Steelbacks in an innings that never quite hit top gear, despite the hosts clearing the ropes eight times.
Alex Wakeley was the first to go, an upbeat 28 in the powerplay, whilst Adam Rossington also hit two maximums, but when he holed out off Borthwick’s opening over for 17, and Ben Duckett soon followed top edging an attempted sweep off Collingwood, Northants innings was in danger of losing its early momentum.
With a batting line-up lacking it’s usual depth, Northants needed one of the top order to step up and Cobb did so with aplomb, turning his recent trend of nice but frustrating 20s into a meaningful contribution.
He hit an early six off Coughlin with another following off Borthwick, but he did have some luck, Richardson putting down a regulation chance at long-on before a missed stumping followed, Keaton Jennings the unlucky bowler on both occasions.
Cobb hit two further sixes, but eventually fell edging Coughlin behind in the 18th over, the wicket the start of an amazing finish for the bowler, whose figures at that point had read 1-42 from 2.5 overs.
He would end the innings with a triple wicket maiden however, Rob Newton, Graeme White and Gleeson all ffeathering simple catches into the off-side. The hat-trick was the second for Durham in t20 after Paul Collingwood’s, also against Northants in 2011.
It would be rendered little more than a footnote in another defeat for the Jets, however, who now sit seventh in the North group with two wins and four defeats to their name.
Whilst the chase was all but over at 9-4, Collingwood at least ensured some respectability with a typically defiant 38, putting on 59 with Scott Borthwick in the only meaningful stand of the innings.
In the end the ever increasing rate saw him hole out to Cobb, who chipped in with 2-29, Borthwick making a run a ball 29 before being run out, and although Coughlin and Jennings hit late sixes, it only lessened the eventual margin of defeat.
MOTM: Moin Ashraf’s three wickets took the headlines on his debut, but it was Josh Cobb’s 68 that ensured Northants had something to bowl at. With Northants missing some serious firepower Cobb stepped up to the plate with an innings that anchored his team, but also hit four huge sixes to record his second half century of the Blast campaign.