WORCESTERSHIRE Rapids took their NatWest T20 Blast match against Northamptonshire Steelbacks to the final ball in an agonising thriller at New Road on Friday.
The Rapids were set a demanding target of 194 and took the explosive contest to the wire as they fell just short by two runs.
The Steelbacks were put into bat and were given a flying start by England’s David Willey and Richard Levi as 50 was put on the board in the fifth over.
Jack Shantry made the first breakthrough when Levi (19) holed out to Moeen Ali on the mid wicket boundary and then Willey (31) was caught at short fine leg by Shantry off Saeed Ajmal.
Wickets started to tumble with Brett D’Oliveira brilliantly running out Josh Cobb (2) with a direct hit from backward point.
Ben Duckett (7) top-edged a sweep from D’Oliveira to Daryl Mitchell at short extra cover and it became 112-5 when Alex Wakeley (23) became Ajmal’s second victim.
Adam Rossington (6) holed out to Ross Whiteley at long off from a Shantry delivery and Rob Keogh (1) was run out after turning Shantry to Tom Kohler-Cadmore at backward point and attempting a single.
The Rapids had gradually dragged the scoring rate back until 60 runs came from the last 2.3 overs thanks to some explosive hitting by Steven Crook and Rory Kleinveldt, who scored a brutal 42 off 12 balls with six sixes, making sure Worcestershire were to work if they wanted a fourth straight victory.
Kleinveldt was dismissed in the last ball of the innings from Ed Barnard to a fine tumbling catch at long off by Moeen.
But in the first ball of the Rapids’ innings, Moeen, who played his last game before linking up with England, went for a duck from Kleinveldt with Rob Keogh taking the catch at extra cover.
Kohler-Cadmore and Mitchell knocked 75 in seven overs before Kohler-Cadmore (36) was trapped lbw by Crook while Mitchell (34) was run out at the non-striker’s end as a straight drive from Colin Munro was deflected on to the stumps by bowler Cobb.
It became 96-4 when D’Oliveira (8) was caught and bowled by Graeme White but the Rapids continued to push for the required target as Munro made a quickfire 34 but was caught at long off from a slower delivery by Muhammad Azharullah.
Whiteley and Ben Cox (24) added a breezy 54 before the latter went for a reverse sweep against the returning Kleinveldt and was pouched at short fine leg by Azharullah.
Whiteley continued to demonstrate his trademark hitting in making an unbeaten 41 from 29 balls with two sixes and found himself on strike for the final over by Azharullah with 14 required for victory.
The big-hitting left-hander struck five successive twos and, with a boundary needed off the final ball, scrambled a leg bye much to the relief of the Steelbacks who claimed the two points in the competition’s North Group.
It was a brave effort by the Rapids who sit in second place going into their next T20 encounter against Nottinghamshire this Friday at6.30pm at Trent Bridge.