YORKSHIRE Vikings slumped to a narrow three-wicket defeat with a ball to spare against holders Northamptonshire Steelbacks in the opening match of their NatWest T20 Blast campaign at Headingley.
Yorkshire’s strong line-up, which included three members of England’s one-day squads for the forthcoming series against Sri Lanka – Joe Root, Gary Ballance and Tim Bresnan – recovered well to set a competitive total of 162-7 after winning the toss.
But Northamptonshire, surprise winners of last year’s T20 tournament, showed their title credentials by fighting back to overhaul Yorkshire’s total with Ben Duckett, England’s under-19 wicketkeeper, scoring a crucial 39 off 29 balls to seal victory.
Although Yorkshire’s campaign may suffer through England calls, they hope to welcome explosive Australian batsman Aaron Finch to their squad just as soon as his time with Sunrisers Hyderabad in the Indian Premier League is completed.
His experience may be vital after they quickly slumped into trouble and had to rely on two of their all-rounders – Bresnan and Liam Plunkett – to dig them out of trouble.
Their collapse to 87-6 began with David Willey, man-of-the-match in last year’s final, brilliantly running out Kane Williamson from backward point, a dismissal that seemed to spur Northants into life.
All hope of setting a competitive total seemed gone when Adil Rashid and Johnny Bairstow fell off successive balls from New Zealand seamer Ian Butler, who finished with 4-25.
But Bresnan and Plunkett, who linked up well during Yorkshire’s innings and 155 runs championship victory over Warwickshire earlier this week, rescued the innings with an aggressive 64-run stand off only 38 balls.
Plunkett fell with six ball remaining for 36 off 22 balls, caught in the deep attempting to hit Butler down the ground, but Bresnan finished unbeaten on 34 off 21 balls, including two fours and two sixes, which at least gave Yorkshire a chance of beating the holders.
Their reply began aggressively with Richard Levi and Willey adding 45 in the first six overs, but wickets off successive balls checked their progress.
Levi was brilliantly caught by Jack Brooks in the deep, before the same fielder ran out Kyle Coetzer from the non-striker’s end before he had faced a ball.
The danger-man, though, was Willey, man of the match in last year’s final triumph over Surrey at Edgbaston, who raced to 43 off 28 balls before picking out Gary Ballance at long off to give Richard Pyrah the first of two wickets.
Pyrah also claimed the key wicket of Steven Crook, who had threatened to win the game for Northants with 29 off 22 balls, when he stepped across the line and fell lbw.
That left Northants struggling on 124-5, needing 29 off the final three overs, and with Ryan Sidebottom producing a brilliant 18th over, conceding only six runs, their equation increased to 23 off only two overs.
A further ten runs off the penultimate over from Brooks, left Northants needing 13 off Sidebottom’s final over and although the former England seamer ran out Matt Spriegel off the second ball, Duckett’s six over long off all but settled the issue off the next ball.
NatWest t20 Blast
Yorkshire v Northamptonshire
at Headingley Carnegie
(Yorkshire won toss)
A W Gale c K J Coetzer b Butler 3
K S Williamson run out 17
J E Root lbw b Azharullah 13
G S Ballance c Levi b G G White 12
J M Bairstow lbw b Butler 24
A U Rashid c Willey b Butler 12
T T Bresnan not out 34
L E Plunkett c Spriegel b Butler 36
R M Pyrah not out 2
Extras (lb5 w2 nb2) 9
Total 7 wkts (20 overs) 162
Fall: 1-12 2-30 3-37 4-57 5-87 6-87 7-151.
Bowling: Spriegel 3-0-26-0, Stone 4-0-33-0, Butler 4-0-25-4, Azharullah 4-0-32-1, G G White 3-0-25-1, Crook 2-0-17-0.
R E Levi c Brooks b Plunkett 19
D J Willey c Ballance b Pyrah 43
K J Coetzer run out 0
R I Newton b Plunkett 12
S P Crook lbw b Pyrah 29
B M Duckett not out 39
I G Butler b Sidebottom 1
M N W Spriegel run out 9
G G White not out 4
Extras (b1 lb5 w3) 9
Total 7 wkts (19.5 overs) 165
Fall: 1-45 2-45 3-81 4-82 5-124 6-134 7-154.
Bowling: Brooks 3-0-19-0, Root 1-0-6-0, Sidebottom 3.5-0-40-1, Bresnan 4-0-34-0, Plunkett 3-0-20-2, A U Rashid 1-0-19-0, Pyrah 4-0-21-2.
Northamptonshire beat Yorkshire by 3 wkts