Ben Duckett’s blistering 84 saw Northants beat Nottinghamshire in the first semi-final at T20 Blast Finals Day. The Steelbacks successfully defended 161 to reach the final for the second consecutive season.
Northants had slipped to 15-3, but Duckett and Alex Wakely shared a fourth wicket stand of 123, Wakely with a half century of his own, but his side lost their way after Duckett departed, with no other batsman making double figures.
Notts fell into early trouble themselves, but Andre Russell, who had earlier taken 3-20, looked to be swinging the chase back in their favour. After 39 off 18 balls, however, he was brilliantly caught on the boundary. Notts could not get the 15 required from the last over despite a Chris Read cameo.
In truth, the game was all about Duckett. The 21 year old, who has enjoyed a remarkable summer, showed all of his invention and power to hit 12 fours and two sixes in his 47 ball innings, including an array of ramps, switch hits and authentic drives.
Nottinghamshire had snatched the early initiative: after Adam Rossington was run out in the opening over, Josh Cobb was strangled down the leg side off Harry Gurney and Richard Levi missed a Russell full toss to be LBW. Despite the three early wickets, Duckett ensured Northants kept finding the rope throughout, taking Stuart Broad for successive boundaries before switch-hitting Samit Patel for six.
A further switch-hit and ramp off Mullaney took him to 50 in 28 balls and the invention continued, as he took the attack to all the Notts bowlers, captain Wakely providing the perfect foil at the other end to keep the scoreboard ticking over.
The pair shared Northants’ highest ever T20 partnership for any wicket, but after Duckett ramped Jake Ball for 4, it proved one too many and Ball bowled him round his legs. From this point, Northants couldn’t build on the momentum.
Rory Kleinveldt and Steven Crook both pulled Russell to Hales on the boundary, and there was only one boundary in the last four overs after Duckett’s departure. Wakely reached his half-century in the final over before being run out attempting a bye.
A chase of 162 looked within the reach of a Notts batting line up boosting nine full internationals, but Michael Lumb skewed Crook to third man and Alex Hales was bowled second ball by Rory Kleinveldt.
When Dan Christian top edged a pull of Azharullah, the Outlaws were also 15-3 but they couldn’t recover, as Northants had, after Wessels attempted a switch hit off Graeme White and was caught in the deep.
Russell was batting on one leg, having pulled a hamstring whilst in the field, but had the game swinging back to his side’s way as he hit White for two sixes in the 10th over, before a third followed as 20 came off the next. It took a moment of brilliance on the boundary to remove Russell, as he pulled Kleinveldt for what was looking like a flat six, but Keogh leapt full length on the boundary to take a brilliant, and match turning, catch.
Samit Patel was caught and bowled by Crook, before Mullaney pulled Crook to the midwicket boundary, as Northants took charge, only for Read and Board to keep the Outlaws hopes alive into the final few overs.
They shared 34 in 20 balls as Northants became sloppy in the field, both batsman benefiting from drop catches, and when Read took Crook for two boundaries in the 18th, 21 runs were needed off 13 balls.
The final ball of the over was hit into long-on’s hands, however, with White showing a safe pair of hands when Broad top edged Sanderson, who took 2-21 from his four overs having replaced the injured Richard Gleeson. Ball and Gurney were unable to get the Outlaws home.
For Northants, written off by many and missing two major players in Gleeson and Seekkuge Prasanna it was another trump in adversity. The perennial underdogs showed their bite to reach a third final in four years. They will face either Durham or Yorkshire later tonight.