Azharullah the star again as Steelbacks see off Falcons

Muhammed Azharullah bowled a brilliant final over to seal victory for the Steelbacks
Muhammed Azharullah bowled a brilliant final over to seal victory for the Steelbacks

Muhammed Azharullah held his nerve to bowl a superb last over that gave Northants Steelbacks a three-run victory over Derbyshire Falcons under Duckworth-Lewis in the NatWest T20 Blast North Group game at Chesterfield on Sunday.

The Falcons needed nine from the final over to reach a revised target of 144 in 18 overs, but Azharullah conceded only five and bowled Scott Elstone with the final ball to keep the Steelbacks in the chase for a quarter-final place.

Josh Cobb top-scored with 48 out of 155 for six before heavy rain delayed the game by 90 minutes.

Despite Wes Durston’s 60 from 39 balls, the Falcons lost their way against disciplined bowling and remain bottom of the group.

“Azza has done it on several occasions for us,” said Northants head coach David Ripley.

“He loves the pressure and responsibility of bowling that last over and backs himself to get those yorkers in. He’s a good man to have with the ball in his hand at the end.”

Derbyshire’s elite performance director Graeme Welch admitted: “We should have won that with 10 balls to spare.

“But we haven’t been winning these tight games so maybe it’s lacking a little bit of belief and knowing how to win in tight situations.”

Derbyshire played well for much of the game after Durston won the toss for the fourth match running and restricted Northamptonshire to 20 from the first four overs before Richard Levi flicked Wayne White over square leg for the first six.

Josh Cobb pulled Shiv Thakor into the trees over long on and, although Durston checked the run flow by conceding only four from the seventh over, 17 came from his next with Cobb just clearing the leaping fielder at wide long on.

Cobb drove Thakor for a straight six but the all-rounder cut one back to have Levi lbw for 42 off the last ball of the 10th over and Durston removed Cobb in the next when he played across the line.

When Alex Wakely chipped Alex Hughes to long on, the Steelbacks had lost three wickets for 11 runs in three overs and Ben Duckett’s attempt to clear the ropes ended in the hands of wide long on in the 14th over.

Northants were in danger of disintegrating when Adam Rossington was superbly caught by Durston at cover and Rory Kleinveldt was the victim of extra bounce in a double wicket maiden for White.

Derbyshire’s bowlers did not concede a boundary in six overs until Steven Crook drove White down the ground but Rob Keogh swung Thakor for six before Crook pulled the third ball of the final over from Nathan Rimmington over long on to take the visitors past 150.

But the storm which had been approaching finally broke over Queen’s Park as the players were leaving the field and the game was delayed for 90 minutes before the Falcons faced a revised target.

Derbyshire had not given away a single extra but Kleinveldt bowled two wides in the first over and Durston and Hamish Rutherford had the home side well on course at 43 without loss from the opening five overs.

Durston swept Cobb for six over midwicket but the all-rounder took a stunning running catch off Graeme White at long on in the next over to remove Rutherford for 20 and Levi held an equally good one at short cover to send back Chesney Hughes without scoring.

Durston cut and pulled Cobb for boundaries before sweeping White for six and completed his 50 from 32 balls before White took a return catch off Wayne Madsen to keep Steelbacks in the game.

It was important for Derbyshire that Durston stayed, but after he pulled Crook to deep midwicket, the Falcons again came up short when the pressure was on.

The win sees Steelbacks up to third in the table.