The victory was the Rapids’ first win of this year’s campaign at the sixth attempt
Northampton: Northamptonshire 248-4, Worcestershire 257-4 – Worcestershire win by six wickets (DLS)
Azhar Ali led the charge with an impressive 130 from just 97 deliveries to help Worcestershire Rapids pursue a formidable target in this Royal London Cup clash against Northamptonshire at Wantage Road.
The Pakistani veteran defied a midset hamstring injury to stage a batting masterclass with 17 fours and a six, providing fans who had braved a rare cold day with booming coverage shots and shots on the infield as well as hits and balls.
He shared an enterprising $138 partnership with rookie Taylor Cornall that made the second half century of his brief career to date. While Azhar fell with 29 runs still needed, Worcestershire crossed the line with four balls and six wickets to spare. The win was the Rapids’ first win of this year’s campaign.
For Northamptonshire, skipper Will Young hit an unbeaten 104 on 94 balls in bowler-friendly conditions to help his side post a competitive 248 for 4 despite two lengthy rain breaks that reduced the game to 39 overs per team .
Young struggled to find his timing early in his innings against the couture ball and only hit the limit twice in his first 50 runs. He kept the scoreboard going, however, raising his half-century of 72 balls, before putting his foot down and hitting triple figures with two sixes on the legs in the final round of innings.
Earlier, batted under dark skies, Northamptonshire swiftly lost Emilio Gay lbw to Ben Gibbon and were up 44 to one when the first break for the run came.
Upon their return, Ricardo Vasconcelos played and missed against the seam ball, but soon began to locate the boundary, scoring the lion’s share of an 84-point stand with Young. He crushed Dillon Pennington to the ground and played a well-timed late cut behind Joe Leach’s square, but advanced to his half-century in less emphatic style, courtesy of four knockdowns. He looked set for another big score after his century last week, playing a magnificent hard shot off Ed Barnard and lifting the same bowler over the infield.
But Vasconcelos’ 70 shot ended soon after when Adam Finch snapped one back and hit the top of the stumps. Worcestershire collected their third wicket in the next thanks to a brilliant direct from the deep courtesy of Gibbon who represented Saif Zaib and left Northamptonshire on 108 for 3.
Ricardo Vasconcelos made 70 for Northants (David Rogers/Getty Images)
Young hit Leach in the backseat early in his innings, but didn’t find the ropes until he was 40. As he sped up, he punched through the middle and pulled out the scoop shot in a 114-valued partnership with keeper Lewis McManus. .
McManus looked scratched early on, floating off the stump to a Finch ball beyond a dive. He gained confidence swinging high on the square leg for six to conjure up the partnership of the century with 86 balls in the penultimate inning. He sent Pennington’s next two balls for four to reach his half-century from 47 balls before digging deep.
That left Young finishing the heats in style with a high four and two on the final. The boundary blaze saw 42 runs come out of the last 12 balls.
In the chase, Azhar took four limits off Jack White’s opening spell and reached his half-century with 55 balls, finding a willing partner in Cornall who played well-timed drives mixed with aggression and lust. innovation, including an uppercut on the keeper.
Azhar offered a 60 chance when a diving Sanderson put a hard chance from deep but otherwise continued undisturbed.
Brandon Glover made two crucial breakthroughs, first for Cornall who chose midfield after 83 balls into the crease. In Glover’s next, Gareth Roderick fell picking up as McManus ran back and took the hold to leave Worcestershire at 157 for 2.
It was to be the last breakthrough for quite some time as Azhar and Libby shared a 68 stand. and cutting before cutting off his toes. to raise its century from just 78 deliveries.
The pair saw a typically tight spell from Ben Sanderson, but with six more points needed from the last six, Azhar finally fell when he fired Jack White towards Vasconcelos who took a fall to the deep. Barnard caught up in the final against White, but with just one run required it was no late consolation for Northamptonshire.
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