Chris Lynn made a spectacular return to Vitality Blast form with a blistering 106 not out to power a rejuvenated Northamptonshire Steelbacks to a comprehensive eight-wicket win over Leicestershire Foxes.
The Australian who smashed an unbeaten century against the same opposition last season came out in determined mood ready to entertain a packed Wantage Road. He put the Foxes to the attack, plundering five sixes and 13 fours, sharing an 81-run stand in 8.5 overs with skipper David Willey (20) as the Steelbacks reached their target of 165 with seven balls to spare.
Earlier Ben Sanderson made a stunning return to the side taking three wickets for just 12 runs in his first two overs in his first T20 game this season. Sanderson took a wicket off the second ball of the game and conceded just a single in his opening over to put the pressure firmly on the visitors who had started the competition with four straight defeats.
Louis Kimber hit a spirited 41 off 27 balls (2 fours, 3 sixes) to help push the visitors into three figures. Although the Foxes lost four wickets for 48 in their last seven overs with Andrew Tye taking three for 30, Naveen-ul-Haq clubbed 25 off just eight balls to ensure the visitors posted a competitive total, albeit around 15 to 20 runs below par.
Earlier Sanderson (3 for 25) his side’s leading T20 wicket taker last season opened his account by bowling Nick Welch before having Rishi Patel caught at mid-on and knocking over Colin Ackermann’s stumps three balls later. He will feel unlucky not have had had a fourth wicket the very next ball when he appeared to have Kimber trapped LBW, only for the umpire’s finger to stay down.
Lewis Hill hit Willey over long on for four and took on the hook shot, garnering a six and two fours off uncontrolled top edges that flew behind the stumps. His innings ended though with the introduction of Freddie Heldreich’s spin who had him well stumped by Lewis McManus.
Kimber made full use of his apparent reprieve and led a recovery with useful support from Rehan Ahmed in a stand worth 47 in 5.4 overs. Kimber dented Sanderson’s figures by swinging him for six over deep midwicket and pulling him for four in the same direction before dispatching Heldreich over long on and long off for two maximums. He offered a steepling caught and bowled chance on 31 but James Sales could not hold on. He finally perished attempting a big swing against Tye with the Foxes 103 for five after 13 overs.
Ahmed (16) fell when he advanced down the pitch and attempted to hook Willey only to top edge the ball for the Steelbacks skipper to take a simple catch.
Tye then chipped in to knock over Callum Parkinson’s (16) stumps before Harry Swindells offered him a steepling catch off his own bowling in the final over which ended with Naveen-ul-Haq blazing consecutive sixes.
When Northamptonshire batted, Emilio Gay (13), opening in place of the inform Ricardo Vasconcelos who is nursing a wrist injury, played some attractive shots before he was the first wicket to fall caught behind off Naseem Shah.
Lynn though soon powered through the gears targeting Parkinson with a pair of fours off the third over. He smashed Naveen-ul-Haq through extra cover and cut him slightly squarer for another boundary before dispatching Ackermann and Parkinson for sixes over cow corner and brought up his half-century off 42 deliveries.
He was especially severe on Josh Hull’s second over, taking 20 runs from it, including a big six over the Briggs & Forrester Family Stand at deep midwicket and crashing him through extra cover.
Willey meantime also found the ropes and hit the young England leg-spinner out of the ground over deep midwicket for six but finally fell to a boundary catch off Naveen with the Steelbacks needing 45 from 41 balls.
That wicket stemmed the Steelbacks’ progress thanks to some tight bowling from Naveen, Shah and Rehan. Saif Zaib (15*) broke the shackles with a couple of boundaries before Lynn swept Parkinson for six and hit him for four down the ground to go into the nineties. He reached his century and brought up the Steelbacks win by clubbing Rehan for six and two fours off consecutive deliveries.
The century was Lynn’s third for the Steelbacks, the only batsman to score more than 1. He also moves up to 14th on Northamptonshire’s all-time T20 run scorers list through just 15 appearances.