The Somerset Sabres beat the Northants Steelbacks with one ball remaing in a thriller at Wantage Road which was reduced to 12 overs each after a delayed start.
What a difference a year makes, just over 11 months ago the Northants Steelbacks finished bottom of the Midland/West/Wales group for the second consecutive year with just two points after a string of dismal performances.
Fast forward to June 2005 and things couldn’t be rosier at Wantage Road. Victories over Gloucestershire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire have given the Steelbacks a realistic chance of qualifying for the knock out stages of the Twenty20 Cup for the first ever time.
The opponents at Wantage Road tonight were the Somerset Sabres, a team, in a similar position to the Steelbacks. After two poor seasons the arrival of South African captain Graeme Smith had seen an up turn in form and they too were looking to progress for the first time.
After enjoying a successful visit to Campball Park in Milton Keynes last Wednesday the Steelbacks played their second Twenty20 Cup game at Wantage Road in front of a full house, unfortunately for the second consecutive game the start was delayed by rain.
Once the covers were removed and after two pitch inspections play finally got underway at 18:30 with both sides set to face 12 overs. The Steelbacks won the toss and for the fourth time during this years Twenty20 Cup they elected to bat first.
The Steelbacks plans for a big total were dealt a blow when opener Tim Roberts was caught lbw second ball by Andy Caddick without scoring, with 3 overs gone the Steelbacks had struggled to 7/1.
Billy Shafayat was Caddick’s second wicket with the score on only 18. The Steelbacks made some progress before captain David Sales was run out for 24 and 9 balls later Damien Wright was back in the pavilion with the score on 60 after scoring 13.
The loss of Wright brought Ben Phillips to the wicket who hit 17 of Gareth Andrew in the 11th over. In the final over James Hildreth picked up the wickets of Phillips and Ricki Wessels as the Steelbacks searched for triple figures.
Set a target of 96 to win the Somerset Sabres started with little trouble reaching 22 of 3 overs, the Steelbacks suffered a further setback with opening bowler Damien Wright going off after 5 balls of his second over after attempting to stop a shot by Graeme Smith.
The Steelbacks finally made a break through at the start of the 5th over when Matt Wood was caught by Ufman Afzaal off the bowling of Steffan Jones with the score on 30, Woods departed scoring 11 of 12 balls.
Smith, the South African captain entertained the Wantage Road crowd with a number of high class shots before departing for 31 with the score on 55 after being caught off the bowling of Jason Brown.
Ian Blackwell’s stay at the crease was brief departing for 9 off 4 balls thanks to Afzaal’s second catch of the night off the bowling of Phillips.
Jason Brown struck again in the 10th over removing Hildreth for 8.
After a long discussion between the Somerset players and the Umpires about who could bowl the last over Steelbacks captain David Sales stepped up and removed Carl Gazzard with his first ball. The drama continued at the death with Somerset needing two runs to win off the last ball.
The Steelbacks were made to pay for their slow start as Michael Parsons hit the winning boundary, the result marked the end of the Steelbacks winning run and saw the Sabres move to the top of Midland/West/Wales group.
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