Veteran all-rounder Ravi Bopara hit an unbeaten 56 from 42 deliveries as Northamptonshire Steelbacks made a winning start to their Vitality Blast campaign in a final-ball thriller against Derbyshire Falcons.

Former England all-rounder Bopara, 39, shared a partnership of 67 from 52 balls with 38-year-old Zimbabwe international Sikandar Raza – both making their experience count on their Blast debuts for the Steelbacks.

Although Raza (38 from 27) fell to Zak Chappell with 25 still needed, Bopara – a Blast winner with Essex in 2019 – kept his head to steer Northamptonshire over the line along with Lewis McManus, who levelled the scores with a boundary off Luis Reece and struck the final ball for a single.

Earlier, David Lloyd had top-scored for the Falcons with 41 from 22 as they posted 162 for seven at Wantage Road, with Steelbacks skipper David Willey taking one for 17 from four overs.

Teenage seamer Raphy Weatherall, one of six other T20 debutants for the Steelbacks, made the initial breakthrough after Derbyshire had been inserted, with Harry Came chipping his second ball tamely to midwicket.

It was a tougher start for another of that quintet, former Falcons seamer George Scrimshaw, whose first over disappeared for 17 as Lloyd gave the visitors’ innings some impetus during the powerplay.

Lloyd and Reece added 55 from 32 before the medium pace of Bopara (one for 21) stifled the scoring rate along with left-arm spinner Freddie Heldreich, who claimed the key wicket of Lloyd as he mistimed a reverse sweep to point.

But Willey looked unplayable at times, bowling tightly throughout his four overs and capturing wickets from successive deliveries as he ripped out Brooke Guest’s leg stump before having Ross Whiteley caught behind.

Wayne Madsen (37 from 33) was bowled by Scrimshaw’s slower ball to reduce Derbyshire to 123 for seven, but they were lifted again by Chappell, who promptly belted his first two deliveries over the fence.

With Northamptonshire’s laborious over rate forcing them to bring in an extra fielder for the final 15 balls, Chappell (18 not out from nine) and Alex Thomson (22no from 17) gave their side something to defend.

Northamptonshire stuttered at the start of their reply, with Pat Brown having South Africa international Matthew Breetzke caught at midwicket by the diving Reece and Willey skying Chappell into the hands of backward point.

Ricardo Vasconcelos – whose unbeaten hundred had saved his side from defeat in their last Championship game – seemed to have transferred that form to the Blast with a knock of 42 from 31, punching two boundaries from Blair Tickner and slog-sweeping Thomson out of the ground.

But the wily Brown tempted him to hole out to deep extra cover and it was left to Bopara and Raza to rebuild the innings, whittling the target down until the latter suddenly upped the ante, blazing Brown for enormous sixes in successive balls.

Although Chappell had Raza caught at mid-off, Bopara bludgeoned Tickner for a straight maximum before Brown (three for 33) gave away just four in the penultimate over to leave the Steelbacks needing 14 from the last.

But Bopara slammed the first of those six balls over the midwicket fence to bring up his 50 before McManus applied the finishing touch to seal a thrilling win for the Steelbacks.