Sunday, June 4th, 2023


Worcestershire Rapids remain top of the Vitality Blast North Group despite going down to a last-over defeat against Northamptonshire Steelbacks in a closely fought encounter at a packed New Road.

The Rapids recovered from the loss of early wickets to post a challenging total of 178-6 and raise hopes of winning their opening five Blast games in a campaign for the first time.

Ben Cox provided excellent late aggression in making an unbeaten 46 from 29 balls after earlier sizeable contributions from Brett D’Oliveira, Jack Haynes and Mitchell Santner.

Adam Finch then bowled superbly with the new ball and when returning for his second spell.

But an excellent unbeaten 70 from just 35 balls by Saiz Zaib, including 15 off the final over, enabled the Steelbacks to win with two balls to spare.

It was a game that could have gone either way, and the Rapids will now look to bounce back during successive away matches with Lancashire Lightning and Yorkshire Vikings.

The Rapids kept faith with the side which defeated Notts Outlaws in impressive style at Trent Bridge on Friday evening.

Michael Bracewell was caught at short third man in the opening over from Ben Sanderson.

D’Oliveira was into his stride with a lofted cover drive and a flick off his legs for successive boundaries off David Willey.

New batter Haynes smashed a full toss from Sanderson over long on for the first maximum of the game.

The England Lions player then brought up the 50 in the final over of the powerplay with two fours in two balls from Willey.

Haynes raced to 26 off 16 balls before he was caught off a skier at third man off AJ Tye with 61 on the board.

Adam Hose tried to hit spinner Freddie Heldreich over the top and was taken at long off.

D’Oliveira made 38 off 28 balls with five fours when he attempted to cut Heldreich and picked out backward point, and Kashif Ali was dismissed in the same manner.

The Rapids hundred came up in the 13th over, and then Santner flat-batted Heldreich for a straight six.

The New Zealander added 40 with Ben Cox before, after making 33 from 21 balls, he holed out to long off against Tom Taylor.

Cox’s aggression brought him three boundaries in a row off Taylor, and then he smote Tye for a huge six into the Graeme Hick Pavilion.

He raced onto 46 from 29 balls and, with Ed Pollock also making a quickfire 16 not out, the Rapids reached 178-6.

When the Steelbacks launched their reply, Dillon Pennington and Finch bowled two excellent opening overs, which yielded just seven runs.

Finch made the first breakthrough after swapping ends when Chris Lynn could only find the safe hands of D’Oliveira at mid on.

A burst of boundaries from Ricardo Vasconcelos lifted the Steelbacks to 45-1 at the end of the powerplay.

Willey looked in decent touch but then tried to force Santner away and was pouched at backward point by Pennington.

Bracewell then accounted for Vasconcelos, who sliced a catch into the safe hands of Pat Brown at deep cover.

Josh Cobb perished to Brown, but Saif batted excellently to settle the game.