Northants Steelbacks suffered Twenty20 heartbreak as they were beaten by 13 runs by Lancashire Lightning in a thrilling final under the Edgbaston floodlights.
David Ripley’s side just came up short in front of a 20,000 crowd in the Natwest T20 Blast Final, finishing on 153 for six in reply to the Lightning’s 166 for seven, with none of the batsmen playing the big innings that would have won the game.
Josh Cobb tried to see the team home, but his 44 from 37 balls was to no avail.
David Willey, with 24, Ben Duckett (20) and Shahid Afridi (26) all made starts, but couldn’t carry it through as Lightning celebrated their first one-day trophy since 1999.
Earlier, a decent all-round bowling effort had kept Lancashire in range for the Steelbacks, but they were left to rue conceding 24 from the final two overs of the innings.
Steelbacks named an unchanged team from the semi-final, and after skipper Alex Wakely won the toss he once again decided to bowl first.
In the semi-final against Bears there was an early clatter of wickets as they slumped to 14 for four, but there was to be no sort of collapse from Lightning in the final as they made a cracking start.
Ashwell Prince could have been caught off the third ball of the match, but his flashing cut off Rory Kleinvledt went straight through the hands of Graeme White at point and the ball raced to the boundary.
Prince and Alex Davies were in positive mood from the off, taking every single and two on offer, and also hitting their fair share of boundaries.
Davies in particular took a liking to the Northants attack, hitting a series of fours and one glorious straight six off the bowling of White as Lancashire eased to 67 without loss after just seven overs.
The Steelbacks desperately needed a breakthrough it came in the ninth over, and Cobb was the man to provide it as he snared the wicket of danger man Davies.
The Lancashire man skipped down the track, but missed a spinning ball and was bowled to leave Lancashire 77 for one.
It was a big moment, and Steelbacks were celebrating again in the next over as Karl Brown was dismissed by Afridi for a duck. He was caught behind down the legside by Duckett, who stumped the player as well just to make sure.
That dismissal brought Jos Buttler to the wicket, and he made his intentions clear as he reverse swept Cobb for four off his fourth ball, and he then hammered White, who was having a bad night, for two big straight sixes in the same over as Lightning moved ominously on to 111 for two with seven overs remaining.
Olly Stone’s next over went for 12 and Wakely turned to Willey to break what was looking a dangerous partnership, and he did it with the first ball of his spell as Buttler miscued a drive off a slower ball, and Cobb took a good catch coming in off the cover boundary to leave Lightning 123 for three.
Buttler scored 27 from just 15 balls.
Three balls later Lancashire were 125 for four, with Willey again doing the business as Prince sliced a short-pitched ball straight to Levi at gully to go for 43 off 45 balls.
Suddenly the Steelbacks were in business - and after Afridi’s fourth and final over they were close to being on top.
The Pakistan ace had the dangerous Aussie James Faulkner caught at extra cover off his first ball, and then with his next delivery a googly did for Liam Livingston who was bowled through the gate.
Lancashire, having been 123 for two, were now 130 for six having lost four wickets for seven runs in eight balls, and their main big-hitters were all back in the dugout.
Further overs from Willey and Muhammad Azharullah kept things tight, with Steve Croft being run out, before the 19th over from Kleinveldt went for 14 to see Lightning past the 150 at 156 for six.
Azharullah was handed the ball for the final over, and he produced a tight effort until the final ball which was dispatched over long-on for six by Arron Lilley who finished 22 not out from 17 balls.
Lightning had scored 24 from the final two overs to finish on 166 for seven, a challenging total.
Steelbacks began their reply in steady fashion, with Levi again looking in good touch, but he was out from the final ball of the fourth over, smashing Faulkner straight to Alex Davies at mid-off.
Levi was out for 16 from 12 balls and Northants were 32 for one.
Willey, who had earlier clubbed Faulkner over square-leg for six, hit two quick boundaries off George Edwards, but then perished in the deep trying to repeat his six off Faulkner and was caught by Lilley.
That wicket fell in the last over of the powerplay, from which Northants finished on 48 for two.
Lancashire brought on their spinners to slow things down, and they did successfully as the County added just 15 runs in the next three overs.
Ben Duckett decided it was time to get a shift on and played some good shots, before he was harshly adjudged lbw to Steven Parry for 20 from 16 balls. The ball looked like it was slipping down legside.
That left the Steelbacks 76 for three, and in the 12th over they were 82 for four, Steven Crook caught on the deep mid-wicket boundary.
That dismissal brought Afridi in, and he was very nearly out first ball, but got away with a miss-hit shot that went high into the air but the ball landed safe.
Afridi spent a few balls getting his eye in before launching a massive six over deep mid-wicket off Croft, and in the next over Cobb got in on the act.
The former Leicestershire man had been in for 21 balls without hitting a four as he played an anchor role, but he did get a four off the bowling of the first over of the 15th over bowled by Edwards, and he added a six a couple of balls later for good measure.
With five overs remaining, the Steelbacks were 118 for four, and were bang in the game, needing 49 to win.
Faulkner bowled the 16th over and off the fourth ball he suffered a broken finger dropping a difficult caught and bowled off Afridi, who then added insult to injury by top edging the Aussie’s next delivery over the wicket-keeper for four.
The Steelbacks went into the final four overs needing 41 to win, but they were again struggling to hit boundaries, and although Cobb managed a four off Lilley, they needed more as they ended the 17th 131 for four, still needing 36.
Northants were given a let off when Davies dropped a steepling effort off Cobb, but the next ball saw Afridi caught in the deep by Livingston off the bowling of Griffiths for 26 off 18 balls.
That was a huge blow to Steelbacks’ hopes, who went into the final two overs needing 29.
Faulkner, with his damaged finger strapped up, returned for the penultimate over and conceded just eight, meaning Northants needed 21 from the final six balls to be bowled by youngster Gavin Griffiths - a tall order.
The first two balls only went for singles, the third saw Kleinveldt caught at mid-off by Croft and that was almost that.
Cobb could only manage a single off the fourth delivery, the fifth was a dot ball and the although the final ball went for four, it didn’t matter as Lancashire celebrated their first T20 success in their sixth visit to finals day.
Lancashire Lightning 166-7 (Davies 47, Prince 43, Afridi 3-14, Willey 2-21) beat Northants Steelbacks 153-6 (Cobb 44no, Afridi 26, Griffiths 2-23, Faulkner 2-25)by 13 runs