Northants and Worcestershire played out a dramatic tie at Wantage Road, as Rob Newton’s maiden Royal London One-Day Cup century wasn’t quite enough to get his side over the victory line.
With 14 needed off the last over, Adam Rossington took three fours off the first five balls, but with two needed off Joe Leach’s last delivery, he couldn’t get bat on ball, running a bye to leave the scores level on 277.
The hosts will feel that this was one that got away however, as Ben Cox’s 81, also a career best, saw Worcestershire recover from 118-5 and 199-8 to reach 277-9, a last wicket stand of 27 between Ed Barnard, who hit 42 at number 10, and Jack Shantry looking crucial.
Newton’s century had put Northants in a strong position as he shared a fourth wicket stand of 106 with captain Alex Wakely, but his dismissal on 107 proved the turning point, as Wakely was run out for 52 two overs later and Steven Crook edged his first delivery behind.
Rossington’s 63 off 45 balls kept the chase alive but despite a scoop and sweep for four off the fourth and fifth balls of the final over his effort would remain in vain.
For Newton it was the first time he had opened in white-ball cricket in four years since hitting his previous highest score, retiring hurt on 88 at Kent back in 2013, taking his opportunity with Ben Duckett away on England duty.
Although delighted to have taken his chance, it was a bittersweet feeling with the overriding emotion of disappointing, with Northants still looking for a first win in the competition.
“The feeling is one of disappointment, we feel that’s a game we’ve outplayed them for 85 overs out of the 100 and couple of little patches have let us down in a big way,” he said.
“Ourselves 190-odd for 3, myself holing out, a run out and a first baller and suddenly you go from driving seat to chasing the game, Rosso (Rossington) played a beuat of an innings just a shame he couldn’t get us over the line.
“I haven’t had a lot of opportunities in the top of the order for a number of years now, Obviously we missed Ducky (Duckett) and we’re all delighted for him, but meant I got a go opening, really pleased to take the chance when it was offered.
“I’ve played a lot of games in recent years and batted 6 or 7 and you try and do the best you can do, so it did feel like a big opportunity and great to score a hundred.
“I enjoy doing it, opening the batting’s great, you get the field up but obviously comes with responsibility, if we go out and win two games at the weekend, I go carry on my good form I’d feel very aggrieved not to keep doing it.”
Newton’s innings looked to have the chase in good stead, after a wobble following the Powerplay when a first wicket stand of 55 ended when Josh Cobb dragged on with Richard Levi and Rob Keogh falling for four and ten respectively.
But together with Wakely they got the chase back on track, allowed to tick things over against Brett D’Oliveira and Daryl Mitchell, Wakely passing 50 for the first time this season shortly after Newton recorded his maiden ton.
Northants’ long tail, with Ben Sanderson, Richard Gleeson and Azharullah would come back to haunt them, especially given Worcesteshire’s late order runs.
Following the middle order collapse, Sanderson joined Rossington with 40 still required and although the former Middlesex man did his best, he couldn’t quite drag his side over the line on his own.
For Northants, one point from three games leaves them an uphill task to qualify, whilst Worcestershire remain unbeaten, largely thanks to a middle and lower order recovery that allowed them to pose a total enough to earn the tie.
The first recovery came from Mitchell, the only one of the top order to make an impression on his return to the side in place of Moeen Ali, putting on 70 for the third wicket after Tom Kohler-Cadmore and Tom Fell had fallen early.
However the latter’s dismissal was quickly followed by D’Oliveira without score and when Mitchell drove Graeme White to cover the visitors seemed up against it, reaching the 30-over mark 124-5.
Cox had one life, which would prove crucial as Sanderson was unable to hold on running round from long on, but Northants kept taking wickets, and when Azharullah bowled both Leach and John Hastings without three balls of the 42nd over, 277 looked a long way off indeed.
But Cox struck two sixes and seven fours as he recorded a maiden one-day half century, and Barnard played a fine knock, his 42 coming off just 27 balls as 51 was added for the ninth wicket, and then 27 for the last after Cox hit Gleeson to third man, Shantry hitting the final two balls for what proved key boundaries.