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Leicestershire Foxes were again left to wonder what might have been in the NatWest T20 Blast competition as Yorkshire Vikings landed a 14-run win at Headingley.
After the Foxes asked Vikings to bat first, Ben Raine (4-0-25-3), Josh Cobb (4-0-21-1) and Charlie Shreck (4-0-32-0) were excellent but the hosts scored 53 off the last four overs to put 168-5 on the board.
Captain Andrew Gale made a workmanlike 55 (51b) while Tim Bresnan (29*, 17b) and Rich Pyrah (16, 9b) added the pyrotechnics with an unbroken stand of 45 from the final 3.3 overs.
The Foxes would accept that they again struggled in the field with missed opportunities and a total of 24 extras - but the target was still well within their capabilities.
Greg Smith (56, 48 balls) and Cobb (27, 19b) shared an opening stand of 61 in 6.5 overs to set a good platform before spin duo Adil Rashid and Azeem Rafiq took 3-50 between them to turn the screw.
Cobb was victim to a catch of the highest order as Adam Lyth and Aaron Finch combined in the deep, and some good death bowling by Ryan Sidebottom (4-0-32-2) followed as the Foxes came up short.
The team will feel it was a game that was within their grasp for much of the evening. That has been a theme of this tournament so far, sadly.
The Foxes welcomed back Scott Styris and Nathan Buck into the starting XI in place of Dan Redfern and Anthony Ireland on a dry and bright evening at Headingley.
The impressive Shreck started with three dot balls but Gale clubbed and drove the next two balls for four. Gale pulled to the boundary at fine leg in Buck’s opener and followed that up with a cut through backward point at the start of the third over from Raine. A set of four leg byes also helped the Vikings’ cause as eleven came off the over.
Buck bowled a bouncer and a full toss that were both called as no-balls, and ten runs were gathered in total as the score moved to 38-0. It had been a lively start but Shreck and Raine sent down a couple of terrific overs to ensure that the Vikings could only gather six runs while losing two wickets.
A thick edge from Gale just evaded Eckersley’s outstretched left hand, and Shreck mixed his pace and length well to keep Finch honest. Raine built on his teammate’s excellent work by yorking Finch (5, 13b) and trapping Alex Lees (0,1b) in front with consecutive deliveries. The Vikings, who looked set for a big powerplay score, had to settle for 41-2.
Jigar Naik is the Foxes’ most economical bowler and his opening over came at a cost of only four. Cobb formed a spin duopoly and the 50 was registered two balls into his spell courtesy of four byes a single. The Vikings were relieved to see boundaries of any description because when Jonny Bairstow beat the fielder at long-on in the 9th over from Naik, it was the first four off the bat for 40 deliveries. Another tidy over from Cobb saw the Vikings restricted to 70-2 at halfway.
The Vikings did not find the ropes in the 11th over but ten runs were collected, with Gale narrowly escaping a run out at one point as Raine was aware to have a shy from the boundary edge as the captain took his foot off the gas. Four byes came when Bairstow missed an attempted a swing across the line against the returning Raine, and a rare four off the bat followed as Gale clipped away. The stand had reached 50 by the end of the 12th over as Yorkshire moved to 91-2.
The first six of the innings arrived when Bairstow hit Naik (4-0-33-1) over long-on and the 100 came up after 12.3 overs with a scampered two. A welcome wicket came off the next ball as Bairstow (29, 23b) lofted down to long-off and Smith took a well-judged catch. Cobb nearly took a one-handed effort off the next ball but Gale survived and moved to a 42-ball 50 off the next ball, the final one of Naik’s neat spell.
Cobb and Shreck went for five apiece as the Vikings stuttered to 111-3 after 15 overs, and the pressure told as Gale was stumped by a mile by Ned Eckersley off the first ball of Cobb’s last over. Only four came off it as the captain completed his miserly spell.
The Foxes looked to have things in check but the Vikings managed to gain momentum. Two boundaries came at the start of the 17th over as Lyth (10, 8b) opened the face to guide Raine down to third man before the next ball beat everyone and ran away for four byes – the fourth set of fielding extras to find the fence. Lyth then holed out to Shreck at deep mid-wicket as Raine gained further reward.
Buck (2.2-0-21-0) bowled a beamer at Pyrah and had to come out of the attack given it was the second full toss he had bowled above waist height, and Taylor (1.4-0-20-0) completed the over. The left armer was desperately unlucky not to pick up a wicket as Pyrah skied miles in the air and ‘keeper Eckersley put down the chance.
A total of 16 came off the penultimate over as Bresnan clubbed a couple of straight fours and Pyrah swung to the deep backward square leg boundary. Seventeen then came from the last over, including a six apiece for Bresnan and Pyrah. To add to the frenetic finale, another opportunity was put down, this time by a tumbling Styris at short fine leg.
Smith clubbed the last ball of the first over from Ryan Sidebottom for six as 11 were scored and although Bresnan bowled five great balls at the start of his opener, the final ball was pulled to the mid-wicket boundary by Smith.
Pyrah’s first ball went for five wides but the seamer recovered well to concede just another single in the over. Bresnan bowled another tight over before the Foxes scored 29 in the next two overs. Extras continued to rack up in the game with four byes, and Cobb drilled Pyrah over mid-off and edged over short third man for boundaries as 14 were scored in total.
The in-form duo yielded 15 in the next over. A terrific strike from Cobb saw the first six of the innings scored off Bresnan, and the next ball was pulled for four to register the 50 partnership. Smith also played a delightful drive to pick up three, and the score was 55-0 after the powerplay.
Smith swept Rashid for four but for the second year in succession, Cobb fell to a stunning catch on this ground. Gary Ballance took a fantastic one-handed catch in 2013, and this time Lyth and Finch demonstrated wonderful agility. Realising he was beyond the long-on boundary, Lyth leapt in the air and parried the ball back in play, where Finch dived full length to grab a one-handed catch. It was a virtual repeat of the duo’s heroics in the Roses win at Emirates Old Trafford last month.
Number three Eckersley (8, 6b) survived a run out scare before striking a four to deep mid-wicket, but a second call to the third umpire in the over went against him as Bairstow stumped the batsman off Rashid. Some good placement from Smith and Matthew Boyce saw the score progress to 85-2 after ten overs.
Boyce (12, 9b) swept Rafiq to the ropes in the 12th over but he was run out next ball after being sent back by Smith. Four came off the 13th – with the 100 coming from the fourth - and Rashid finished with excellent figures of 2-24.
Off-spinner Rafiq (4-0-26-1) struck a crucial blow with his last delivery as Styris (6, 9b), on the sweep, was given out caught behind. Smith got down to lap Sidebottom for a much-needed four in the 15th over, the Foxes moving to 116-3 with five overs remaining.
That left a target of 53 from five overs and Smith edged the second ball of the 16th for four to move to a 46-ball 50. A brace of twos followed before the Vikings took the key wicket of Smith, who fell attempting a paddle sweep off Bresnan (4-0-33-1).
The Foxes now required 43 off four and the team suffered another couple of big setbacks as Taylor (2, 3b) saw an outside edge off Sidebottom clatter into the stumps before Raine (0, 1b) was run out next ball.
There was a consolation in the over as Wells (16, 11b) edged the last ball for four to leave 37 to find off three overs. Wells hit the fifth ball of the antepenultimate over for six to give the Foxes hope but was held at long-off by Finch at the start of Sidebottom’s last over.
A target of 27 off eleven balls was now asking a great deal off two new batsmen in Naik (10*, 9b) and Buck (3*, 4b). Sidebottom conceded just five singles and Robinson completed the job to leave the Foxes empty-handed for a sixth time in eight outings.
The result is a blow to the side’s qualification hopes but the team have two games coming up at the end of the week and a couple of wins against Northamptonshire and Derbyshire would keep them in the mix.