Leicestershire Foxes were entitled to feel extremely hard done by as Northants Steelbacks escaped with a point from the NatWest T20 Blast game at Grace Road.
The Steelbacks were skittled for 82 in just 16.2 overs after being inserted on a dull and breezy evening but the game was washed out just when the Foxes were well on the way to a much-needed two-point haul.
Seam trio Charlie Shreck (2.2-0-13-3), Anthony Ireland (4-0-19-3) and Ben Raine (3-0-12-3) each picked up three wickets for a lively Foxes attack.
It was a second consecutive T20 career-best for all-rounder Raine, who took 3-25 at Headingley on Tuesday.
Fellow seamer Scott Styris (4-0-15-1) also excelled and Niall O’Brien took a Foxes record five catches behind the wicket as the team produced a superb performance in the field.
In team news, O’Brien and Ireland came in for Rob Taylor and Nathan Buck from the side that lost to Yorkshire Vikings while the Steelbacks were unchanged from last night’s win against Birmingham Bears.
Shreck set the tone for the evening by having Richard Levi (0, 2b) caught by O’Brien. Captain Kyle Coetzer (17, 17b) cracked the first boundary through cover point at the end of the first over before Ireland sent down a cracking set to Dave Willey. The seamer beat the outside edge on two occasions and only three runs were scored.
Coetzer struck Raine through the covers for four and three off consecutive balls in the third over, and Willey pulled the first ball of the next over very fine for four. But another important breakthrough was made as Willey (9, 11b) chipped the next ball to Styris at mid-off.
Middlesex loanee Adam Rossington (4, 5b) came in at four and the batsman gave himself room to strike the last ball of the 4th over to the cover boundary. Rossington’s joy was short-lived; he clattered his next delivery off the returning Shreck high to Raine in the covers.
Matthew Spriegel (6, 5b) drove the first ball off his innings from Shreck to the cover boundary but Ireland then bowled another good over and had the left-hander caught behind at the end of it. The Steelbacks were in trouble on 35-4 at the end of their powerplay.
Northants gathered six singles off Jigar Naik’s first over and Ireland completed his terrific spell from the Bennett End. The seamer had Coetzer caught by Boyce at deep mid-wicket for 17, the Steelbacks now in further bother on 42-5.
Although Ireland’s last ball was pulled for four by Crook, the bowler still ended with fine figures. Naik’s second over went for seven before Styris came on for his first bowl for the Foxes. The Kiwi international struck with his second delivery, having Ben Duckett (6, 7b) caught at the wicket by O’Brien. James Middlebrook then played a delicate late cut for four as Steelbacks limped to 58-6 at halfway.
Middlebrook struck a straight six as ten came of the 11th over from Naik (3-0-23-0), and after a Styris that went for seven, Raine picked up two more wickets, both caught behind. Crook (17, 16b) was first to nick and Middlebrook (13, 13b) followed as O’Brien completed a quintet of victims.
Styris’ third over cost just a couple and Raine picked up a second consecutive three-for as Graeme White (2, 7b), the Steelbacks batting hero of yesterday evening, edged to Naik at slip.
All-rounder Styris finished his spell with another superb over before Shreck returned to dismiss Ollie Stone (3, 7b) in the 17th over. The batsman chopped onto his stumps to complete a tough innings for the visitors.
Rain then fell at the interval and it got heavier and more persistent so the Foxes had to settle for a point. The team’s next game is against Derbyshire Falcons at Chesterfield on Sunday afternoon (2.30pm start).
* Thanks to Ed Melia for the photograph of Ben Raine.