Head coach David Ripley said that it had been a match of two halves at the County Ground as the Steelbacks slipped to defeat in the last over of their Vitality Blast opener.

With Ben Duckett (96), the returning Josh Cobb (56) and captain Alex Wakely (51 not out) all hitting some spectacular shots the Steelbacks put together their biggest ever total in this format of the sport on home ground.

The 218-3 also represented the county’s third-highest score in the format, but it proved to be not enough to see them home for the win as Leicestershire captain Colin Ackermann’s outstanding 66 runs in 31 balls combined with a six-run penalty for a slow over rate to get the Foxes over the line.

“The first half was outstanding,” Ripley said. “We lost an early wicket but still played with conviction in the Powerplay, Ben and Josh were superb and we thought we were going to defend that score.

“But we haven’t done ourselves justice with the ball or in the field. We were sloppy in the field and didn’t show the calmness we needed. We were frantic and that led to a time penalty.

“It was a very fine innings from Colin and that can happen in T20 cricket.”

Having found form with his first hundred of the season last week at Cardiff, Duckett was quickly into his work here, delicately paddle-sweeping Ben Raine for six over long leg and lifting him over extra-cover for four. He then took 12 from Callum Parkinson’s first over – with two reverse-sweeps over backward point – before another reverse-swept boundary saw Northants reach 58 at the end of the Powerplay, for the loss of Richard Levi for 6 in the third over.

A punch through extra-cover raised his seventh T20 fifty in 22 balls before a top-edged hook cleared long leg for his second six and a perfect paddle-sweep went straight over the wicketkeeper’s head for another maximum. A fierce pull to him to within sight of a century but he holed out to long-on in the final over of the innings.

Duckett shared 111 for the second wicket with Josh Cobb – the record second-wicket stand for the Steelbacks in T20s. Cobb leg-glanced Zak Chappell for his first boundary before clearing his front leg to take four more down the ground. He pulled Nabi over midwicket for his first six before smearing Cameron Delport’s first two deliveries over long-on and a weaker effort that was parried over the fence for six more by Mohammad Abbas.

Having passed 50 in 28 balls with three fours and four sixes, he holed out to long-on for 56 swinging at Parkinson.

Wakely then took up the task and pulled Chappell for four through midwicket before skipping down to lift Nabi for six in the offspinner’s final over. Abbas returned and Wakely steered a boundary wide of long leg and clubbed another straight back past the bowler. A perfectly-timed pick-up shot cleared square leg and in the final over, he swung a mighty straight-drive over the Wilson Stand as he went to a 22-ball 50 in the final over.

Neil Dexter gave the chase a bright start, albeit with two boundaries via the inside edge, but having got to 38, was run out as Delport tried to take a sharp single to Seekkuge Prasanna at mid-on.

Two wickets then fell within the space of three balls – Delport holed out to long-on where Duckett took a good catch before Mark Cosgrove was run-out backing up as Cobb collected a firm straight drive, turned and threw down the stumps.

The required rate spiralled to 16-an-over with over a third of the innings remaining before Ackermann found his touch. He pulled and flicked Seekkuge Prasanna’s final over for 19 before Mohammad Nabi swung Nathan Buck for three successive fours to leave 74 needed from 30 balls. 

Ackermann’s third six – off Ben Sanderson over extra-cover – raised fifty in 24 balls and his fourth – heaved over long-on, completed a quite extraordinary chase.

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