Northamptonshire Steelbacks and Leicestershire Foxes played out a thrilling last-ball tie at Wantage Road in a game that provided drama and entertainment throughout.

Leicestershire’s Rishi Patel maintained his rich vein of form in this year’s Vitality Blast, savaging Northamptonshire’s bowlers for an outstanding 104 from 45 balls.

Patel, the Blast’s leading run-scorer this season, equalled the Foxes’ fastest ever T20 century – set by Ben Raine against Birmingham six years ago – as he reached the landmark in just 41 deliveries.

The 25-year-old opener upstaged Steelbacks skipper David Willey, who marked his 300th career T20 game by top-scoring with 71 from 48 – and passing 4,000 runs in the format – as the home side posted 208 for five.

Northamptonshire struggled in the face of Patel’s onslaught, but rookie seamer Raphy Weatherall pegged the Foxes back with four for 50 before Lewis Goldsworthy edged a boundary from his final delivery to tie the contest.

The Steelbacks recalled Ricardo Vasconcelos to their line-up and the opener made a sprightly start after they opted to bat first, hitting a couple of early cover boundaries off Wiaan Mulder.

He and Matthew Breetzke, who dispatched Ben Mike’s first three balls to the fence, rattled along nicely as they added 42 from 24 before Scott Currie pounced to run the left-hander out with a pinpoint throw from long off.

Another piece of individual brilliance by Currie accounted for Breetzke, who was yorked for 47 from 24, but Willey began to accelerate, slog-sweeping Goldsworthy for the first six of the night and punching the next ball for four.

Ravi Bopara (22 from 15) helped to keep the scoreboard racing along before he was castled by Goldsworthy, but it was Sikandar Raza’s explosive knock of 36 not out from just 14 balls that did most to propel Northamptonshire beyond 200.

Raza hammered both Goldsworthy and Ian Holland for successive sixes and, although Willey perished in the final over, miscuing to mid-off – the first of two wickets in as many balls for Josh Hull (two for 38), the Steelbacks’ total looked competitive to say the least.

However, Patel eagerly accepted the challenge when Leicestershire replied by smashing 18 from Willey’s first over and hitting cleanly over the ring as he and Sol Budinger accumulated an opening partnership of 61 from 28.

Ben Sanderson eventually removed Budinger, caught in the deep for a supporting act of 13, but Patel sped past his half-century from 22 deliveries with a cover-driven four off Raza and continued to plunder boundaries from seamers and spinners alike.

A six and four from successive Sanderson deliveries took Patel to his hundred and, although he was dropped by Breetzke at long-on on 103, the fielder made amends in the next over by safely pouching a top edge off Freddie Heldreich.

Willey gave Northamptonshire renewed hope, trapping Louis Kimber leg before and Mulder and Mike both holed out to deep square leg off Weatherall in quick succession to leave the Foxes needing 19 from the last two overs.

A trio of dot balls by Sanderson built pressure, though, and Weatherall dismissed both Peter Handscomb (43 from 41) and Ben Cox to bring the equation down to five from the last ball, but Goldsworthy’s outside edge flew to the boundary to rescue a point for Leicestershire.