Batting collapse costs Steelbacks as they slump to opening Blast defeat to Rapids

Northants Steelbacks celebrate claiming a wicket in the Worcestershire Rapids innings (Picture: Peter Short)Northants Steelbacks celebrate claiming a wicket in the Worcestershire Rapids innings (Picture: Peter Short)
Northants Steelbacks celebrate claiming a wicket in the Worcestershire Rapids innings (Picture: Peter Short)
The Steelbacks’ Vitality Blast campaign got off to a losing start as they collapsed to 15-run defeat at the hands of Worcestershire Rapids at the County Ground.

Northants looked to be cruising to victory as they eased to 90 for one in just the eighth over reply to the visitors’ testing 196 for nine.

But a shocking batting collapse saw the Steelbacks lose five wickets for just 26 runs in the space of little more than five overs to slide to 116 for six, and they never recovered.

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Leg-spin bowling was the catalyst for the alarming slide, with Usama Mir claiming three for 21 from his four overs and skipper Brett D’Oliveira three for 28.

Brett D'Oliveira is bowled by Tom Taylor (Picture: Peter Short)Brett D'Oliveira is bowled by Tom Taylor (Picture: Peter Short)
Brett D'Oliveira is bowled by Tom Taylor (Picture: Peter Short)

Tom Taylor produced a spirited late cameo to top score with 44 not out, and there were also contributions from skipper David Willey (36) and Ricardo Vasconcelos (32), but it wasn’t enough.

It was a bad end to a night that had promised so much, even though the Steelbacks will probably feel they allowed the Rapids to score too many runs as well.

In a change of strategy to recent seasons, Steelbacks opened with an all-pace attack rather than mixing it up with spin, with Willey taking the new ball, and Taylor following him.

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Taylor struck in the second over, having New Zealander Michael Bracewell caught at deep square-leg by Saif Zaib, a ball after the same player had hit him for a big six.

Brett D'Oliveira had hit Willey for successive fours, but perished in the fourth over, attempting an ambitious scoop shot off Taylor and instead seeing his middle stump uprooted and Rapids were 24 for two.

AJ Tye was then introduced for his first over for the Steelbacks, and was promptly smacked for 15, Jack Haynes sending the final delivery over long-on for six.

Left-arm spinner Graeme White then conceded 17, which meant the Rapids finished the powerplay on 57 for two, having scored 32 in the final two overs.

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Haynes and Adam Hose were looking good, but their partnership ended with the score on 73 as Tye tempted the former into a big hit too many down the ground with James Sales claimed the catch at long on.

Kashif Ali swatted a couple of hefty sixes as Rapids looked to up the rate, but he then swatted Willey to Rob Keogh at deep square leg and the visitors were 98 for four.

Hose, who was dropped by Willey off the bowling of the unlucky Sales on 43, brought up his half-century from 34 balls in the 15th over as Rapids eased to 132 for four and into a good position to set a big total.

Hose, who had been badly dropped by Willey off Sales for 43, completed his half-century from 34 balls in the 15th over, but will have been kicking himself as he was dismissed for 61, sending a Graeme White full toss high in the air, the bowler doing to make up the ground and take a tumbling catch.

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The Rapids man wasn't happy as he felt the delivery should have been called a no-ball on height.

Ed Pollock (23 from 11) came in and took over from Hose with some clean hitting to take Rapids to 176 for five in the 18th over, before a couple of quick wickets claimed by Taylor and Tye slowed their progress.

Mir added some lusty late blows as Rapids stayed on the attack, but a flurry of wickets including a couple of smart run-outs meant they closed on 196 for nine.

It was certainly a testing total for the Steelbacks, who needed a good start in the reply, and they did just that easing to 29 without loss after three overs, with Vasconcelos leading the way with four boundaries.

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Chris Lynn had yet to open up, but he soon changed that with four successive fours off Michael Bracewell in the fourth, and he soon hit a fifth to bring the 50 up after 4.1 overs.

But that was to be the end of the fun as Lynn hit the next ball from Adam Finch straight to deep square leg to depart for 28, bringing Willey to the crease.

The new skipper carried on where Lynn left of, hammering one huge six into the Wantage Road gardens, and the Steelbacks finished the powerplay in great shape at 72 for one.

Vasconcelos got in on the act with a huge six over the west stand, but the introduction of leg-spinner Usama Mir did the trick as he bowled the left-hander for 32 to make it 90 for two.

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Josh Cobb’s stay was short-lived as he swiped Pat Brown to Finch at deep point, and with two wickets lost for five runs a reset was needed at 94 for three in the ninth, but Zaib then reverse swept Mir straight to the fielder and the Steelbacks were tottering at 99 for four.

Skipper Willey was next to perish as the wheels really started to fall off, clipping D’Oliveira straight to deep square-leg, with Rob Keogh giving away his wicket to Mir in the next over. He gave deep mid-wicket some catching practice and the Steelbacks were 116 for six.

With the run-rate creeping up to close to 14 and over, Lewis McManus went for a big hit over mid-on but didn’t get enough on it and Northants’ race was as good as run at 138 for seven in the 16th.

Sales struggled for any sort of timing before being dismissed and although Taylor produced an entertaining late flurry, it was a case of too little too late.

Match facts

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Worcestershire Rapids: 196-9 - Hose 61 (40 balls, 6 fours, 2 sixes); Haynes 27 (17 balls, 4 fours, 1 six); Taylor 3-42 off four, Tye 2-36 off four; Willey 1-36 off four, White 1-42 off four.

Steelbacks: 181-8 – Taylor 44 not out (26 balls, 4 fours, 1 six), Willey 36 (24 balls, 2 fours, 2 sixes), Vasconcelos 32 (20 balls, 4 fours, 1 six)

Rapids won by 15 runs