Warwickshire openers William Porterfield and Sam Hain shared an opening stand of 180 as the Bears eased past Northamptonshire by eight wickets at Edgbaston, leaving them one win away from a quarter final place in the one-day cup.
Chasing the Steelbacks’ 254-9, Porterfield and Hain made light work of the target and although neither could reach three figures, falling for 92 and 88 respectively, their stand ensured the Bears could cruise over the line with two overs to spare.
Alex Wakely and Josh Cobb both hit half centuries for the Steelbacks, with Ben Duckett adding 46, but the visitors’ lost early wickets throughout and were unable to capitalise on their top order runs, eventually scrambling over the 250 mark.
Victory moves the Bears up to second in the North group, knowing one win from their final two games will be enough to make the last eight, whilst Northants are fifth and will likely need to win both their remaining fixtures to qualify.
Porterfield and Hain were only seven runs shy of beating the county record opening stand in List A cricket, but Porterfield was simply happy to get the team over the line and earn a crucial victory in the battle for the quarter finals.
“I felt pretty good today, I have felt good in the last few knocks and it’s nice to continue that,” he said. “But the important thing is we got over the line and won the game.
“The guys bowled really well to keep taking wickets, every time they started a partnership we broke it, we pretty much bowled them out and if you do that in limited overs cricket you’re well on the way to winning the game.
“We knew it was always going to be a tight group so it was a good win but we are not looking past Durham tomorrow, and if we can win there we’ll see where that puts us.”
Having amassed three totals over 300, including one of 425, in their four completed innings in the competition this summer, Northants failed to reach the same heights having been put in at Edgbaston, in a batting display that struggled for momentum throughout and ended up falling flat.
They had started brightly as Rossington and Cobb shared a lively opening stand of 46 inside eight overs, and although Rossington was caught and bowled by Recordo Gordon for 18, Cobb lifted two sixes over midwicket.
Duckett was playing 24 hours on from his remarkable unbeaten 220 for the England Lions, and together with Cobb appeared to be setting an excellent platform as they brought up the century for the loss of just Rossington in the 20th over; Cobb reaching a second half century in three days.
However a mix-up saw him run out without adding to his 50, and the return of Jeetan Patel in the 25th over proved a turning point as Duckett got a thin edge on an attempted cut, before Sunday’s centurian Rob Keogh chipped a return catch off his second ball without score.
Northants were forced to rebuild once more and although Rob Newton added 40 with Wakely in ten overs, Newton fell just as they looked to capitalise, caught on the leg side boundary off Chris Wright.
Wakely twice pulled sixes, the second of which brought up his half century, but he kept losing partners as neither Steven Crook and Rory Kleinveldt could make much of an impression, Crook driving Wright to mid-on before Kleinveldt pulled Oliver Hannon-Dalby to deep midwicket.
The skipper then followed, slicing Hannon-Dalby to point after a well made 70, leaving Graeme White and the tail to bat out the remaining five overs, limping over the 250 mark.
Early wickets were needed but none were forthcoming as instead a glut of boundaries flowed of the bats of Hain and in particular Porterfield, who took Kleinveldt for four consecutive boundaries in the third over.
After that explosive start the pair settled into a more composed tone as they worked away the total with little fuss, giving few opportunities while keeping the scoreboard ticking over – the only half chance coming in the 12th over when Duckett missed the chance to run out Hain from cover.
The hundred was brought up inside 19 overs as the duo both moved to half centuries, Wakely rotating his bowlers with little affect, until the introduction of Keogh saw Porterfield top edge a slog sweep, but Wakely himself was unable to hold on to a tough catch running back from mid-on.
With that chance gone, the pair eased past Warwickshire’s highest opening stand against Northants, 147, and were just seven runs short of the county record when they were eventually parted, and it took a mistake of their own, as a mix up saw Porterfield run out by substitute fielder Ben Sanderson.
Hain also enjoyed a life, put down by a diving White at deep square leg off Richard Gleeson, only to be trapped LBW by Azharullah shortly after, however Laurie Evans and Ian Bell eased the Bears over the line; Evans finishing unbeaten on 43 as victory was sealed in the 48th over.
“We were well beaten today and we weren’t quite on it,” Northants captain Wakely admitted.
“I think at the end there it showed we were 20, 30 runs light, we knew the new ball was going to be key but we didn’t hit our straps and those two openers did bat very well.
“It puts us in a position where we go [to Worcester] tomorrow and we have to win really, we tend to bounce back from these sort of performances pretty well so we’ll try and do the same thing tomorrow.”