Josh Cobb’s 100 was not enough to help the Steelbacks over the line at a sun-drenched County Ground.
The batsman hit his century off just 58 balls, including eight fours and half-a-dozen sixes, but it was a personal milestone that was ultimately in vain as his team failed to chase down the 188 they needed to beat Birmingham Bears.
Aside from Ricardo Vasconcelos – who had been racking up the runs nicely before being caught brilliantly on the boundary by Aaron Thomason – and Brett Hutton’s late run-a-ball 15, the rest of the home batsmen failed to get out of single figures as the Bears bowlers piled on the pressure.
“It’s bitter-sweet,” Cobb acknowledged while talking to BBC Radio Northampton. “It was pleasing after having had a few low scores recently, but unfortunately it was in a losing side.
“I had a great net this morning where everything seemed to come out of the middle and that gave me confidence. It’s a confidence game, and while it was my day it wasn’t enough to get the boys over the line. We lost wickets at bad times and didn’t build partnerships.
“We’ve had a few individual performances that have deserved to have been on a winning side and we’ve had a terrible run of games in terms of losing. It needs guys to take the game by the scruff of the neck, and hopefully we’ll get a bit of confidence and some wins by the end of the comp.”
The lack of runs was frustrating, but the result was also as much down to the final three overs in the visitors’ innings, when Birmingham managed to shake off the shackles which the Steelbacks attack had imposed for the first 80 percent to take their score from 144-5 at the end of the 17th over to 187-7 at the end of the 20th.
Nathan Buck, Hutton and Seekkuge Prasanna bore the brunt of the onslaught in those final three overs as England star Chris Woakes, who finished with an unbeaten 57, Bears captain Grant Elliott and Thomason threw their bats at the ball in what proved to be the deciding acceleration of the run rate.
It was a particular shame for Buck, whose first three overs had seen him take two wickets and concede just 18 runs, while Hutton’s economy rate had also been impressive. Indeed none of the Steelbacks bowlers went for more than 12 an over and the seven wickets to fall were shared by four of the six players to be handed the ball.
Ultimately though, positives like this do not count for much when the overall result does not go your way, but the Steelbacks will be nevertheless looking to build on them – and Friday’s performance at Headingley – when they travel to Derby on Wednesday evening.