A man of the match performance from Riki Wessels helped Notts Outlaws to the victory they needed to ensure qualification for the quarter final stages of the NatWest T20 Blast competition.
Wessels scored 64, sharing in a stand of 102 with Samit Patel, who made 42, as Notts posted 174-6 against Northants Steelbacks at Wantage Road.
The Steelbacks, last year’s winners, were always behind the required run-rate and although Kyle Coetzer made a brave 67 his side ended on 152-7, losing by 22 runs.
During the course of his innings Wessels became only the sixth Outlaw to pass 1,000 T20 runs for the county and he was understandably delighted to score runs against his former employers.
“The wicket was never as good when I played here,” he commented. “But it worked out nicely for me and Samit to keep the board ticking over. We were perhaps a little disappointed to only get to 174 but there’s a confidence in the camp that we can defend any total right now.”
Wessels also produced a stunning boundary catch during the Northants innings. “It’s nice to get one of those at last. I’ve had to throw one or two back into the field recently and also been out like that a few times myself.”
On a gloriously hot evening James Taylor won the toss and opted to bat first “We want to try and put a decent score on the board and give our bowlers something to defend,” he said.
With Michael Lumb’s arm injury still giving cause for concern, the left-hander was omitted and Sam Wood returned to the starting line-up.
After an indifferent performance with the bat three days earlier, against Leicestershire Foxes, the Outlaws’ innings had a different tempo to it, almost from the off.
Steven Mullaney promoted to open the batting, in the absence of Lumb, hit David Willey for four boundaries in the second over of the match.
Not to be outdone his partner, Alex Hales, put Olly Stone away for 2 fours and a huge 6 over long on in the next over.
Willey changed ends – but not his fortune – as he was brutally hit into the crowd by Hales in the fifth, an over which saw Notts bring up their half century.
The stand was broken in the final over of the powerplay, with Hales (28) chopping Crook onto his stumps.
From 54-0 it then became 56-2 as Mullaney (22) followed in the 7th, flicking Azharullah into the hands of fine leg.
Former Steelbacks player Wessels arrived at the crease to a very warm reception from both sets of fans and helped keep the board rotating in a splendid third wicket stand with Samit Patel.
The 100 came up in the 13th over and in the next Patel launched James Middlebrook into the stands.
Willey came back for more punishment – and found it – with Wessels clubbing three more to the fence and one miles over it in an over that cost 20.
On 47 Wessels had a half-life, this time Willey the fielder couldn’t scoop up the dropping ball at long on.
The batsman advanced to his half century (30 balls 5x4 1x6) and then clubbed Azharullah for his second maximum.
Patel had been the perfect foil for his partner before falling for 42 from 33 deliveries, hitting Crook into the hands of Willey.
The dismissal came after 17.2 overs and between there and the finish Notts lost three more wickets, whilst adding only 16 more runs.
Franklin (1) came and went quickly, skying his second ball from Crook straight up and back down into the hands of ‘keeper Ben Duckett.
Wessels (64) nicked Azharullah behind and Chris Read was bowled, trying to whip the same bowler to leg.
James Taylor finished on 4 not out and Sam Wood was unbeaten on 6. Crook finished with 3-19 and Azharullah claimed 3-31. Willey’s figures weren’t quite so impressive, 3-0-49-0.
Willey’s (3) miserable night was concluded when he hit Ajmal Shahzad high onto the off side and Taylor took a well-judged catch.
Northants hopes of chasing down the Notts score – and keeping their mathematical hopes of qualifying still alive – all but ended next ball as Richard Levi (6) edged Shahzad through to Read.
Adam Rossington (11) hit the first maximum of the innings, lofting Franklin over midwicket but when he tried to emulate the effort down the ground he could only pick out Mullaney.
The wicket was Franklin’s first for Notts.
Kyle Coetzer, on 20 at the time, hit Patel’s first delivery straight back at the bowler – but the pace on the ball was sufficient for it to wriggle free and fall to the floor.
Crook (37) tried to inject some momentum, hitting Mullaney for a square cut four and a lofted 6 in the eleventh over. Coetzer swept Patel high over the ropes for 6 but when his partner tried another big blow he could only look on ruefully as long on plucked a sensational catch out of the sky.
Wessels, miked up to speak to the live television broadcasters, had been speaking about the luminous green football boots he was fielding in. He omitted to mention their outstanding springing ability because Wessels soared high to take the ball one-handed.
Coetzer reached his 50 (36 balls 6x4 1x6) and went on to reach 67 before Harry Gurney fired one through his defences and into the stumps.
Graeme White was unluckily run out without scoring. He drilled the ball back into the stumps at the far end and set off for a non-existent run, leaving Luke Fletcher just to gather the ball and remove a stump with the former Outlaw stranded halfway down the wicket.
30 were still needed from the final over but despite a four from the first ball it gave Franklin an opportunity to pick up a further wicket as Matt Spriegel (20) picked out Hales in the deep.
Notts have one group match left to play, at Headingley on Friday evening, when victory over Yorkshire Vikings will guarantee a home quarter final tie.