Northants Steelbacks suffered a third straight defeat in the Vitality Blast as they lost by 8 runs to the Worcestershire Rapids at Wantage Road. The visitors, who can’t progress, put a dent in Northants’ hopes of going through to the knockout stage, and confirmed that Gloucestershire are the first side through to the quarter finals
Winning the toss and batting first, the visitors made a good start. Hamish Rutherford found the gardens on Wantage Road with an enormous six, as the Worcestershire openers raised a 50 partnership in the opening 27 balls.
In the final over of the powerplay, Northants broke through. Jack Haynes was well caught by Paul Stirling for 28 from 19 balls. The Rapids made 60-1 from the powerplay overs.
Rutherford continued to dominate proceedings, reaching his half century in 30 balls with his third six but he lost Jake Libby in the 11th over to a very smart caught and bowled by Saif Zaib.
Rutherford’s fine innings ended on 62 when he could only find White on the square leg boundary off Nathan Buck. It was an excellent knock, though, from the Kiwi opener who only took up 37 balls.
That brought two of the experienced members of the Worcestershire side together in Ben Cox and Brett D’Oliviera. They made a quick partnership of 27 before Cox was caught by Ben Sanderson off Brandon Glover for 21.
D’Oliviera followed soon after, going LBW to Sanderson in the 18th over as Northants continued to squeeze the Rapids in the latter overs.
Rapids captain Ed Barnard didn’t last long chipping Glover to mid off for 1. Glover ended with 2-42 from his four overs.
Sanderson was the pick of the Northants’ bowlers taking 2-26 but the last over of the innings went for 14 as the Rapids made 178-6.
Richard Levi was quick into his work in the run chase, hitting three fours and a six from the second over of the innings, but Paul Stirling failed, caught by Daryl Mitchell off Charlie Morris for 5 at the start of the third.
Levi continued to dispatch the Worcestershire bowling to all parts of the ground and 71 came from the powerplay overs, Northants’ highest score of the season from the first six.
Levi would make his 50 from 27 balls but lost his captain when Josh Cobb was dismissed by his opposite number Barnard for 13.
The South African would also fall to Barnard for 50, and Northants then lost Ricardo Vasconcelos for 8 to the last ball of the 10th over to Mitchell. The Steelbacks were 90-4 at the halfway stage.
Barnard ended his spell with the excellent figures of 2-15 from 4 overs, and the Rapids then picked up the key wicket of Alex Wakely who was bowled by D’Oliveira for 7.
Boundaries had dried up for the Steelbacks, who were left needing 52 from the last four overs. Adam Rossington was able to clear the rope in the 17th over and then hit a couple of fours off Patrick Brown to keep the home side in touch.
Zaib then chipped in with two boundaries to start the 19th over, but he fell caught and bowled for 24 to leave the home side 16 to win off the last over.
Rossington was run out for a valiant 45 from 34 balls and the Steelbacks fell 8 runs short. The win was only Worcestershire’s second of the season, but it could be a damaging loss for the Steelbacks who are likely to need to win both of their remaining games to qualify for the quarter finals.
Northants travel to Taunton on Friday before finishing up against the Birmingham Bears at Edgbaston on Sunday.