Steelbacks' title defence ends with Durham disappointment

Muhammad Azharullah trapped Tom Latham LBW
Muhammad Azharullah trapped Tom Latham LBW

The Steelbacks' NatWest T20 Blast title defence ended with a damp squib as their clash with Durham Jets was washed out at the County Ground.

But even if David Ripley's men had managed to win, they would not have made it to the quarter-finals as Birmingham Bears, Derbyshire Falcons and Leicestershire Foxes all won.

Graeme White was able to celebrate a wicket on his return, but there were very few other positives for the Steelbacks (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)

Graeme White was able to celebrate a wicket on his return, but there were very few other positives for the Steelbacks (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)

Those teams, along with Nottinghamshire Outlaws, will be in the last eight, while the Steelbacks are left to reflect on a disappointing end to their campaign.

They suffered heavy defeats to Leicestershire and Yorkshire prior to the game against Durham.

And that encounter wasn't going well either, as the Steelbacks had struggled to contain their lowly opponents with the ball.

Alex Wakely won the toss, but Durham recovered from the early loss of Keaton Jennings to make a massive 208 for three, with Graham Clark (71) top scoring.

Alex Wakely enjoyed a run out and a catch, but it was in vain

Alex Wakely enjoyed a run out and a catch, but it was in vain

It was more misery for the Steelbacks, who had been hammered by 124 runs at Yorkshire on the previous evening.

And the rain was to prevent any reply against the Jets as the home side were eliminated after finishing sixth in the North Group.

Despite the disappointments against Leicestershire and Yorkshire, the Steelbacks had been confident of beating Durham, who had only previously won three of their 13 group games.

The return of Graeme White from a shoulder injury was another reason to be positive and more good news came when Wakely won the toss.

Richard Gleeson finished with disappointing figures

Richard Gleeson finished with disappointing figures

The Steelbacks opted to field with rain predicted later in the evening, and Josh Cobb started things off well with an over that went for just two runs.

Rory Kleinveldt then backed it up superbly as Durham struggled to get going early on.

And England man Jennings was to go in the third over as he tried to take on a single that was never there and was run out by Wakely for just three.

Durham did come to life in the fifth over as Graham Clark took four successive fours from the bowling of RIchard Gleeson.

Clark kept going and, after a sluggish start, the Jets had bounced back superbly, taking 43 runs from the final three overs of the powerplay to finish it on 58 for one.

The first over of Graeme White's return from a shoulder injury was to cost eight runs as Durham ticked over.

Clark reached a 26-ball 50 with a six off White as the Steelbacks desperately searched for a wicket.

But Durham continued to motor on and they had racked up 111 for one by the halfway point, putting them in a commanding position.

The Steelbacks eventually saw some light at the end of the tunnel when Muhammad Azharullah trapped Tom Latham LBW for 37, ending a key stand of 107.

Rain eventually intervened with Durham well placed on 131 for two in the 13th over, but when play resumed the Steelbacks struck almost immediately.

White had Clark caught by Wakely for 71, but it didn't make much difference to Durham as they continued to pile on the runs.

Gleeson finished his spell with figures of nought for 51 to sum up the Steelbacks' lack of joy with the ball.

And Durham's innings concluded on 208 for three, with Michael Richardson (47no) and captain Paul Coughlin (36no) having provided useful late runs.

But the Steelbacks were robbed of the chance to reply as the rain came down once again and called a total halt to proceedings, leaving Ripley's men with a feeling of frustration.

Steelbacks: Levi, Rossington (wk), Cobb, Duckett, Wakely (c), Keogh, Crook, Kleinveldt, Sanderson, Gleeson, Azharullah.

Durham Jets: Jennings, Latham, Richardson, Clark, Burnham, Coughlin (c), Arshad, Poynter (wk), Pringle, Weighell, Rushworth.