Imran Tahir made an instant impression on his T20 debut for Nottinghamshire as the Outlaws inflicted only a second defeat of the season on Northamptonshire in their meeting at Wantage Road.
Tahir took 3-13 from his four overs as Northants failed to build on a powerplay that saw them well set at 59-1, the Steelbacks losing their last nine wickets for 62 runs to be bowled out for just 122.
Dan Christian’s quickfire half century ensured Nottinghamshire made light work of the total, sharing an unbroken century stand with Michael Lumb as the Outlaws cruised home with six overs to spare.
The win sees a continuation of the stranglehold Nottinghamshire have held over Northants, and it is now remarkably over a decade since they last tasted defeat to their fellow east-midlanders, a run stretching over 16 games in all competitions, since a Pro40 win in July 2006.
Northants had won their previous seven T20 matches at Wantage Road and came into the tie clear at the top of the table, but in front of a packed home crowd, the Steelbacks disintegrated after what had been a promising start, falling from 52-0 from five, to lose all ten wickets for 70 runs in 13 overs.
Tahir, Samit Patel and Steven Mullaney taking a combined 8-52 from 10.2 overs.
Notts lost Riki Wessels and Greg Smith early in their rebuttal, as Richard Gleeson once again impressed, but Christian clubbed 31 in a nine ball spell off the spin of Graeme White and Seekkuge Prasanna, and although he and Lumb fell, his 28 ball half century all but ended the contest.
The win saw the Outlaws strengthen their position in the quarter final spots, whilst Northants remain three points clear at the top despite defeat, after losses for Warwickshire and Worcestershire, and Head Coach David Ripley was left to reflect on a bad day at the office.
“Disappointing, we have got lot of people in tonight, we’ve played some really good cricket, we just haven’t really turned up,” he said.
“We were 50-0 from five overs, a good base and kind of imploded with the bat.
“We play our cricket positively, it’s a fine line between playing the positive cricket that’s won us those games and what looks like a couple of poor dismissals but we didn’t play very smart, if we’d weighed in at 150 it might have been a tight game, 120 was never going to challenge Notts.
And when asked how he felt about their position in the rankings, he remarked:
“I try not to look to hard [at the table] until the sharp end as everyone’s beating everyone, it’s still very much in our own hands and that’s not only qualifying but a home quarter final and that’s still our aim.
“It was only a week ago we went to Edgbaston and won comfortably, at a place where not many people win, so we’re still a good side and the Notts hoodo thing certainly playing on my mind, but it’d be nice to play them at Finals Day and put one over on them.”
The evening had started so well for the Steelbacks having been asked to bat first by Christian, as Richard Levi clubbed three fours and three sixes and Adam Rossington also hit four boundaries before being bowled by Jake Ball after the pair set an opening stand of 52.
However from the moment Levi tried to reverse sweep Patel, two balls into the seventh over, the hosts’ innings fell apart; Ben Duckett the only other man to get into double figures with 29 on the day of his call-up to the England Lions.
Josh Cobb holed out in the deep, before Tahir trapped Steven Crook and Alex Wakely both LBW in successive overs as they stumbled to 90-5 in the 11th over.
Duckett briefly threatened some resistance with three boundaries, but when he chipped Steven Mullaney’s second ball straight back to him, his wicket sparked a final collapse as the last five fell for 14 runs.
They Steelbacks left 10 balls unused as Harry Gurney, Tahir and Mullaney wrapped up the tail, and a total of 122 was always going to be insufficient.
Richard Gleeson signed a permanent deal at Northants this week after a string of impressive white ball performances and once against struck early, Wessels LBW before brilliantly running out Smith, sharply collecting the ball in his follow through and throwing down the stumps with Smith out of his crease.
However Lumb and Christian ensured there wouldn’t be any further wobbles, Muhammed Azharullah’s two overs costing 26 as the pair shared five fours and a six off the bowler.
After knocking his way to 22 from 20 balls Christian decided to put his foot down and hit White for a six and four, before hitting two further maximums in Prasanna’s next over, which cost 20 and left just 34 required from the final nine overs.
Neither Christian nor Lumb could see it home however, the former holing out to midwicket off Ashraf before Lumb fell to Gleeson, who finished with 2-13 from four overs, but it mattered little as Patel and Brendan Taylor cruised over the line with three overs remaining.
Man of the match: Imran Tahir made his T20 debut for Nottinghamshire, but showed no signs of rustiness with a superb spell of 3-13 that saw Northants collapse after a flying start, and set the platform for a comfortable Outlaws victory.