A brilliant fourth wicket partnership between Cameron White and Steven Crook helped the Northants Steelbacks become the first side to go through the final of the Friends Life T20 2013 later this evening, as they beat the Essex Eagles by 7 wickets with 11 balls to spare.
After winning the toss and electing to field, Northants would have been disappointed with their death bowling and their sloppy fielding, which seemed to have cost them the match, as they let Essex score 168.
In order to go through to their first ever T20 final, Northants had to chase down what would be their biggest total of the tournament so far. And it got off to the best possible start with Richard Levi smashing the Essex bowlers all over the park on his way to yet another 50 and in the process, his 100th T20 six.
The start was the perfect platform for the batsmen coming in to finish the job. But right after Levi's dismissal right around the halfway mark, the boundaries dried up and it looked as if Essex held all the cards until the 15th over.
But, when James Foster gave the ball to Tim Phillips, the left arm spinner, White and Crook, who had both been quiet until then, launched into him and the innings took one final turn and after 20 runs off that over, it was Northants all the way.
Even Reece Topley who was outstanding in his first three overs was smashed all over the park in his final over. The fourth wicket pair added 78 runs off just 36 balls to send Northants to the final.
Whilst the batters sealed the deal, the bowlers who were in control of the match for the majority of the innings, lost the plot towards the end of the Essex innings as they conceded 36 off the last two overs. They allowed Graham Napier to give the innings some much needed impetus and provided the final flourish with his 38 off just 15 balls.
Early on the innings, even with the loss of G Smith, Essex got off to a good start thanks to some big hitting from H Rutherford, who was playing his last game for Essex. Rutherford made the most of his good luck, having been dropped in the very first over. But once he fell, the Essex batting were on the verge of collapse with the fall of Pettini, Bopara and finally, the man in form, ten Doeschate in quick succession.
And just when it seemed as if a score of 160, on a pitch which suited the batsman, seemed unlikely, captain J Foster and Graham Napier got together and amassed a 50 in less than five overs to help push Essex past the magical 160 mark.
But, this was not before Northants Skipper A Wakely put down Napier in the penultimate over, something which, at the end of the day didn’t prove to be very costly mistake as he led his side to their first Friends Life T20 final.
In the other semi-final Surrey came through a tight counter with Hampshire to set up a final showdown against the Steelbacks later tonight.
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