Steelbacks make it three in a row

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Northamptonshire made it maximum points from their first three Twenty20 games with a 27-run victory over Gloucestershire at Bristol.

The Steelbacks posted 162 for five after winning the toss, Rikki Wessels top-scoring with 43, off 23 balls, and David Sales making 41. Mark Hardinges was the pick of the Gladiators' bowlers with one for 18 from his four overs.

Despite attractive contributions from Marcus North (36) and Hamish Marshall (25), Gloucestershire never threatened to reach their target as Johann Louw and Andrew Hall claimed three wickets each.

Steve Kirby was back in the Gloucestershire side after five weeks out with a shoulder injury and he made the first breakthrough, bowling Niall O'Brien for one in the third over.

But Rob White was soon striking the ball cleanly on his way to 39, off 26 balls, with five fours and two sixes. He and Hall (26) took the total to 57 before White was brilliantly caught and bowled by Hardinges diving to his right.

Sales found it hard to time the ball initially, but used his experience to stick around and eventually blossomed with two fours and two sixes. But it was Wessels who provided necessary late acceleration with sixes off Jon Lewis, Will Rudge and Kirby, the last off the final ball of the innings.

Lewis, unusually, went for 50 off his four overs and it was a surprise that left-arm spinner Ian Fisher only bowled three for figures of one for 18.

Gloucestershire reached 24 in reply before Craig Spearman was bowled by Louw. Chris Taylor soon followed with the total on 41 and two more quick wickets put Northants in control.

Marshall was lbw to Hall, while Alex Gidman fell in the same fashion first ball, playing across the line to Jason Brown.

North and Hardinges added 46 before Hardinges was bowled by a short delivery from Lance Klusener for 19 and the Gladiators' last hope vanished when North was bowled by Klusener, having faced 29 balls and hit 3 fours and a six.

Eight of the Gladiators batsmen were bowled and the other two were lbw, a tribute to the accuracy of the Steelbacks attack, in which Louw (three for 18), Hall (three for 21) and Klusener (two for eight)shone.
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