T20 BLAST FINAL: Cobb and Wakely steer Steelbacks to T20 glory

GLORY NIGHT - Alex Wakely celebrates a wicket during the Steelbacks' final win over Durham (Pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)
GLORY NIGHT - Alex Wakely celebrates a wicket during the Steelbacks' final win over Durham (Pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)

Josh Cobb was the star of the show as Northants Steelbacks lifted the NatWest T20 Blast trophy in dramatic style under the Edgbaston lights on Saturday night.

Rob Keogh hit the first ball of the final over for four to seal an amazing four-wicket win for Northants, who had earlier found themselves in dire straits at nine for three chasing Durham Jets’ 153 for nine.

But Cobb, with 80 from 48 balls, and skipper Alex Wakely, who hit 43, turned things around as the pair put on 120 in just 78 balls to turn the game on its head.

It wouldn’t be Northants without a scare towards the end though, and they managed to make hard work of finishing the job off, but Keogh (16no) kept his nerve to seal the win and kick-start the celebrations for the team and their supporters.

The rain was pouring down by the time the presentation came about and Wakely lifted the trophy, but nobody of a Northants persuasion cared as they enjoyed the club’s second T20 title in the space of four years.

Earlier, the County produced a good bowling and fielding performance to restrict Durham, but a fantastic 88 from Keaton Jennings saw his team to what was a competitive total.

The County, who earlier in the day had recovered from 15 for three to beat Notts in the semi-final, endured a nightmare start and were on the ropes as it looked like a second successive year of finals day heartache for the men from Wantage Road.

But Cobb and Wakely had other ideas.

Going into the final, Wakely once again lost the toss, but unlike in the win over Notts, Steelbacks were asked to bowl as Durham skipper Paul Collingwood opted to set a target.

That decision meant history would certainly favour the north east side, as the most recent time a team batting second won a T20 final was when Kent did it way back in 2007.

Durham, who had beaten Yorkshire batting first in their semi-final, got off to a solid start with 16 coming off the first two overs, but then Muhammad Azharullah made the breakthrough, having Mark Stoneman caught and bowled for eight.

That brought England man Ben Stokes to the crease, and he was brimming with confidence after his match-winning 56 in the semi-final.

He started his innings like a man on a mission, and had hammered 18 from his first seven balls to take his side to 34 for one.

But that was to be it for the Durham man, as from the second ball of the fifth over he didn’t properly get hold of a Ben Sanderson delivery to deep mid-wicket, where Keogh swooped to race in take an excellent catch diving forward.

Durham were 34 for two, and on the back foot.

They ended the powerplay on 40 for two, but Northants were celebrating again three balls into the seventh over as Michael Richardson edged Steven Crook behind and Adam Rossington pouched the catch.

Durham were 43 for three, and then Jack Burnham threw away his wicket in the eighth over as he was run out for a duck.

The teenager went for a third run that to Azharullah in the deep, but the Northants man’s throw was straight to Rossington who broke the stumps with Burnham a yard out of his ground and Durham were reeling at 49 for four.

With Collingwood calming things down and Jennings looking in great touch, Durham edged to 68 for four at the halfway stage, before the latter hammered the first delivery of the 11th over for the first six of the match off Graeme White over long-on.

The County missed a chance to dismiss Jennings in the 12th when Crook out down a caught and bowled chance that he would normally snaffle nine times out of 10, and the left-hander brought up his 50 off 40 balls shortly afterwards.

Jennings and Collingwood had put on 40 from 30 balls and were looking to press on when the County made another timely breakthrough, Collingwood slapping a ball off Sanderson straight down the throat of Crook on the square-leg boundary.

He was gone for nine, and Durham were 89 for five, but Jennings was still there and the big hope for Durham, a point he outlined with a huge six off Sanderson.

Richard Levi had earlier spilled a difficult chance off new batsman Ryan Pringle, but the Durham man’s reprieve was short-lived as Cobb produded a stunning catch, diving full length to his left at extra cover and holding on to leave the northerners 104 for six.

Another big six from Jennings, this time off Crook, kept the scoreboard ticking over, and going into the final four overs they were 116 for six.

Jennings was holding the Durham innings together, hammering another straight maximum off Kleinveldt, and he followed it up with another boundary as 16 came off the 17th over to see Durham to 132 for six - with 37 being plundered from just 18 balls.

Seven came off the 18th over bowled by Azharullah, before the Steelbacks got their man at long last in the 19th, Jennings pulling a ball from Kleinveldt to Cobb and deep square-leg and he took the catch.

Jennings was given a standing ovation for his 88 from 54 balls, which included five fours and four sixes, and is the highest individual score in the history of the English T20 competition.

Kleinveldt followed that up by having Scott Borthwick caught behind to at least put a little gloss on his figures, and Durham were 144 for eight with six balls remaining.

Nine came off that final over from Azharullah, and Durham finished on 153 for eight.

The County would have wanted a solid start as they set off in pursuit of 154 to win - they didn’t get it.

Levi and Rossington saw off the first over from Chris Rushworth without incident, but two balls into Mark Wood’s first over of the contest, they were both out and it was four for two.

First up Rossington edged a good length ball to Borthwick at second slip, and then Levi was run out, Borthwick doing brilliantly to throw down the stumps after diving to his right to collect an edge along the ground from Cobb at second slip.

Levi was out by inches, but it was sloppy cricket and he should have made his ground.

Things went from bad to worse in the third over as Ben Duckett, the batting hero of the semi-final, was pinned lbw by Rushworth to be dismissed for four and the County were in big trouble at nine for three.

Just like the semi-final, skipper Wakely found himself walking to the crease with his team in strife, only this time he had Cobb for company.

The pair slowly and surely dragged the team into the game, and thanks to 18 from the sixth over bowled by Usman Arshad - Cobb hitting 17 of them - the County ended the powerplay on 46 for three - Durham had been 40 for two.

The Steelbacks were still finding it tough going, but Cobb eased the pressure with a huge six off Borthwick and two boundaries in three balls in the ninth over bowled by Jennings, and the County moved up to 68 for three with 11 overs remaining.

Leg-spinner Borthwick bowled the 10th over and singles were the order of the day until the fifth ball, which Cobb smashed out of the ground, the ball sailing over the roof of the Hollis Stand - the monster hit bringing up the Northants man’s 50 from just 26 balls, including six fours and three sixes.

Durham needed a breakthrough, and in the 12th over skipper Collingwood brought pace-ace Wood back into the attack to try and get rid of Cobb.

As the rain started to fall and with Northants ahead of the Duckworth/Lewis par score, it was a key moment in the game,

Wood raced in, but Northants won the battle taking 11 off the over with a boundary apiece for Cobb and Wakely as the score rose to 99 for three.

The County now needed 55 from the final eight overs, and when Wakely smashed the first ball from Borthwick for a straight six, the equation was 49 needed from 47 balls.

Another boundary from Wakely brought up the 100 partnership between the skipper and Cobb, coming off 64 balls. It was the second century partnership of the day that Wakely had been part of.

With five overs remaining the Steelbacks needed 33 to win.

Wakely smashed Arshad’s first delivery for six and was then handed a reprieve when he was on 43 a Paul Coughlin’s catch off him in the deep was judged to have touched the ground on review - but Wakely was then needlessly run out the very next ball!

The captain and Cobb had scored 120 from 78 balls to take the County to 129 for four and to within sight of the finishing line.

Durham’s final throw of the dice was to bring Wood back for his final over, the 16th of the innings, but Cobb and Keogh dealt with the threat comfortably and the Steelbacks were 136 for four, needing just 18 from four overs.

The silverware was surely the County’s for the taking now.

Cobb was eventually dismissed for a quite brilliant 80 from 41 balls, feathering a catch behind off Rushworth to leave the County 148 for five.

Crook came to the crease and was run out by Stokes as a minor panic set in, and somehow the game went down to the last over with the Steelbacks needing three to win.

Arshad was bowling, and Keogh stood tall and hammered a four through wide mid-on to secure the win and get the party started.