Josh Cobb’s career-best 84 couldn’t prevent Northants Steelbacks slipping to a seven-wicket NatWest T20 Blast defeat against Nottinghamshire Outlaws at Trent Bridge on Saturday.
The Steelbacks had won four of their past five matches, with the other one a washout at Leicestershire, and they looked in good shape as Cobb helped them to 173 for five.
But it wasn’t to be enough as England pair Samit Patel and James Taylor guided the star-studded Outlaws side to their fourth T20 victory of the season.
Northants had harboured hopes of moving into the top two of the North Group, following the previous night’s dramatic two-run win at Worcestershire Rapids.
But their bowlers were unable to get them over the line again as Patel, who made an unbeaten 58, and Taylor, who was 38 not out, secured the victory for the Outlaws.
The Steelbacks had gone into the game without the injured David Willey, with Olly Stone coming in to replace the England star and Cobb moving up from three to open.
David Ripley’s in-form side, who had never beaten the Outlaws in the 20-over competition, got off to a slow start, with Patel’s spin and Harry Gurney’s pace shackling them.
Just four runs came from the opening two overs before Cobb managed to notch a couple of boundaries off the bowling of Jake Ball.
Cobb was adopting a go hard or go home policy, lashing one ball for a big six before flashing one just out of the reach of wicketkeeper Riki Wessels.
At the other end, Richard Levi was really struggling to get going and was eventually put out of his misery by Ben Hilfenhaus, who trapped the South African LBW for nine.
Northants were 44 for one at the end of the powerplay, with the Outlaws refusing to let them break free.
Steven Mullaney missed the chance to get rid of Cobb, failing to take a tough chance off his own bowling in the eighth over.
Cobb was dropped for the second time in the 11th over as Taylor couldn’t take a tricky catch running back towards the boundary.
And the Steelbacks opener then serenely moved to a 32-ball 50.
Ben Duckett was also playing well, but he was dismissed for 30 as Greg Smith took the catch at long-on off the bowling of Mullaney.
With five overs to go, the Steelbacks had moved to 122 for two, with Cobb still there on 75.
Steven Crook, who had had hit an unbeaten 56 from 35 balls in the win at Worcestershire, was dismissed by Gurney, who had the batsman caught by Taylor.
That brought Rory Kleinveldt to the crease as he sought to replicate his stunning innings at New Road, where he smashed six sixes in seven balls in a 12-ball 42.
But after firing a four, Kleinveldt clipped the ball into the hands of the keeper to give Hilfenhaus a second wicket of the afternoon.
Adam Rossington was the next man in and he fired a flashy 28 from 11 balls alongside Cobb, who was run out on the final ball for a superb 84.
Kleinveldt was charged with opening the Steelbacks bowling and had an LBW appeal turned down before Michael Lumb, who survived it, placed the final delivery of the over for four.
Alex Hales wasn’t so lucky though as he made just one before finding himself caught by Duckett off the bowling of the fired-up Stone.
Stone’s opening two overs went for just six runs in total, but the Steelbacks were leaking them at the other end, with one of Kleinveldt’s shipping 16.
Lumb was flying and he eventually did punish Stone in the bowler’s third over, hitting four fours from it.
But the opener was to go when the spin was introduced as Graeme White struck, having Lumb caught in the deep by Levi for an impressive 45 from 27 balls.
Wessels did well in Lumb’s absence, but an audacious flick didn’t pay dividends, presenting Muhammad Azharullah with a wicket as Rob Keogh took the catch.
Wessels had made 25 and his departure brought another classy batsman to the crease as Outlaws captain and England player Taylor made his way to the middle.
He and Patel were to prove the driving force the home side needed, putting on 95 to earn their side the victory with nine balls to spare.
Nottinghamshire Outlaws: Hales, Lumb, Wessels, Smith, Patel, Taylor (c), Christian, Mullaney, Hilfenhaus, Ball, Gurney.
Northants Steelbacks: Levi, Cobb, Duckett, Wakely (c), Crook, Rossington, Keogh, Kleinveldt, White, Stone, Azharullah.