Half centuries from Josh Cobb and Adam Rossington saw Northamptonshire cruise to a six wicket victory over Leicestershire at Wantage Road, to return the Steelbacks to the top of the T20 Blast’s North group as they close in on a quarter final place.
Richard Gleeson took 3-20 as the Steelbacks restricted the Foxes to 149-5, a total that never looked enough and Northants never needed to get into top gear as they cruised to the target, Cobb with 57, his third fifty of the campaign, whilst Rossington made 50 as the Steelbacks won with 13 balls to spare.
It was Northants’ fifth win in seven Blast games this year, with one washout, and saw Alex Wakely’s men go back above the Birmingham Bears at the top of the North group, ahead of the two sides meeting at Edgbaston next Friday.
Gleeson has to wait for his opportunity at County Championship level, but at 28, the quick bowler has benefited from injuries to Olly Stone and Rory Kleinveldt with a string of impressive performances in both the T20 Blast and One-Day Cup, his two early wickets setting the tone for the afternoon.
“This is my first go at county cricket, I’m enjoying it, it’s good to test yourself at the top level,” Gleeson, who is still juggling a job as a community coach with the Lancashire Cricket Board, said.
“I think I’ve held my own so far, I’ve got lucky with a couple of injuries that I’ve got a place and held it down.
“I knew I was always going to get some kind of First Class cricket, it’s a long season and they’ve got to rest players, it’s unfortunate for the guys who got injured but I’ve prospered from that.
“When I came in I thought if I can keep it tight, do that job the wickets would follow, so I’m happy with that, I feel in good rhythm, hitting my marks well, hitting my straps, bowling to the plans and executing them so feel it’s going well.
For Northants, the win takes them ever closer to a place in the quarter finals and Gleeson said the side are now targeting a home tie in the last eight after a comprehensive win.
“Hopefully we can go into that with good momentum playing well, we’re targeting a home quarter final if we can, playing in front of home fans is always nice.
“We started off well with the ball and we knew if we got early wickets it’d put them on the back foot, we brought it back well at the end then the boys went out and did the job with the bat was impressive.
“They killed it off really quickly, so that was nice, settles the nerves, knew we were home and dry early on. Cobb’s batting really well for a man on one knee, he’s striking the ball really cleanly, Rosso again doing it in all forms in red and white ball.”
From the moment Gleeson bowled Mark Cosgrove with the seventh delivery of the match, anything other than a Northants victory looked unlikely as a Leicestershire team missing Umar Akmal, who has left for the CPL, meekly slipped to their fifth defeat of the competition.
After Cameron Delport was also bowled by Gleeson, Mark Pettini and Mark Cosgrove threatened to lead a recovery with a third wicket stand of 74 off eight overs, but that was as good as it got for the Foxes.
The introduction of spin put the brakes on the visitors as O’Brien tamely lifted Cobb’s second ball to long-off on 29 and although Pettini brought up his half century, having hit the only six of the innings, he fell for 56, LBW to Graeme White.
Paul Horton hit three fours, but they were the only boundaries of the last eight overs for the Foxes as they couldn’t find any momentum in crawling up to 149-5, Horton having to retire hurt in the final over after being hit by a Gleeson full toss, before Lewis Hill was bowled two balls later for 15.
A target of 150 never looked enough against a Northants team who have been successful in their three previous run chases this season, and so it proved, as the Steelbacks raced to 54-1 from the powerplay, at which point the job was virtually done.
Richard Levi was making his comeback to the side but after hitting Rob Taylor for three consecutive fours, skewed Clint McKay to third man, however Rossington and Cobb kept up the attack on Taylor, whose three overs cost 35, Cobb lifting a six over midwicket in addition to six boundaries.
With the required rate down to six an over the pair could cruise along from that point, although Rossington kept the boundary count flowing with four in 12 balls off O’Brien and Jigar Naik.
The wicketkeeper went to a 29 ball half century, his second in Northants colours and third overall, only to fall next ball, bowled by Cosgrove, but Cobb kept going and in the company of Ben Duckett was able to ease to his own fifty, his third of the competition off 40 balls.
Duckett hit two fours but holed out off Delport, whilst with just two needed Cobb gave Delport a second wicket by tamely chipping to cover. It only delayed the inevitable however as captain Alex Wakely slapped a full-toss for four to end one of the more one sided T20 clashes.
MOTM: Josh Cobb once again takes the accolade having anchored Northants to another comfortable victory in the T20 Blast. Just like in his 50 against Worcestershire earlier in the competition, Cobb paced his innings perfectly as Northants cruised to victory against his former side, having also picked up the wicket of the dangerous Kevin O’Brien.