Tom Taylor blasted 42 off just 23 balls to lead Northamptonshire to their first Metro Bank One Day Cup victory in a gripping encounter over Sussex Sharks at Wantage Road. Taylor came together with Justin Broad with the Steelbacks walking shaky ground on 173 for seven, still needing 70 to win in just 7.2 overs.
But Taylor, fresh from a maiden List A century against Gloucestershire at Cheltenham on Friday, took advantage of a largely inexperienced bowling attack, smashing three sixes and three fours. Together with Justin Broad (22), the pair knocked off the runs required from just 36 balls with an over to spare.
Showing intent from the outset, Taylor, reverse swept for six and four and smashed another ball over midwicket for another maximum. Needing 14 runs to win off the last two overs, Taylor swung Ari Karvelas for a huge six over the short boundary before Broad hit another maximum to clinch victory.
Earlier Cheteshwar Pujara’s patient, classy undefeated 106 (119 balls) was the backbone of Sussex’s innings. Against a disciplined Steelbacks attack in conditions favouring the bowlers, Pujara was content to play the long game, scoring at close to a run a ball and keeping risk to a minimum. He collected just three boundaries in his first 79 runs, before pressing the accelerator with two sixes in the closing overs to take him into three figures as the Sharks closed on 240 for seven.
Northamptonshire’s Jack White (3-29) had struck in successive overs to remove both Sharks openers cheaply before Pujara and James Coles (29) rebuilt in a stand of 50 off 50 balls. Steelbacks skipper Lewis McManus’ bowling changes made impacts at key moments to peg back the visitors’ momentum, but the lower order kept Pujara company, taking the offensive option as Sussex’s innings ended with a flourish.
With rain reducing the match to 45 overs a side, Northamptonshire’s revised target was 243, but despite a stand of 57 between Ricardo Vasconcelos (37) and Sam Whiteman (30) and a spirited 36 from McManus, the Steelbacks looked in trouble before Taylor and Broad came together.
White had accounted for Sussex skipper Tom Haines early, caught at point and Tom Alsop who drove loosely to slip, leaving them 21 for two in the eighth over.
Joined by Coles, Pujara largely played the anchor role, putting away the bad balls, favouring the cut shot when the bowlers strayed in line but also using his feet to drive into the gaps.
Coles was more attacking, hitting four boundaries before departing in Rob Keogh’s opening over when the spinner got one to turn back and trap him lbw.
Tom Clark’s brief stay ended when Keogh tossed one up tempting him to come down the track. Keeper McManus fumbled the ball initially, but still had time to whip off the bails with the batter well out of his ground.
Seam brough the last three wickets. White struck almost immediately in a fresh spell when Fynn Hudson-Prentice plinked the ball straight to mid-on. Carter (21) went on the offensive, but Procter’s new spell did the trick when the batter attempted a wild swing and was trapped lbw.
After the rain break, Jack Carson (17) took on Procter, hooking and clattering him through midwicket before he top-edged to backward point as the all-rounder got his revenge.
Pujara though finished with a flourish, carving one square for six and hitting down the ground for another maximum.
Prithvi Shaw started Northamptonshire’s chase positively, taking consecutive boundaries off each of Karvelas’ opening overs, but after a brisk 26, he chopped a Brad Currie delivery onto his stumps. Currie then had Emilio Gay adjudged caught behind off a ball which looked to have hit the thigh pad.
Whiteman hit consecutive boundaries, playing the hook to good effect and took the Steelbacks to three figures with a sweetly-timed sweep off Carson. He failed to repeat the shot though and could only top-edge the next ball.
Vasconcelos played some inventive shots mixed with conventional strokeplay. He punched through cover for four to get off the mark and drove sweetly as the Steelbacks ended the powerplay on 51 for two. He took on Carson’s off-breaks, pulling through midwicket and punching down the ground but gave the spinner his second scalp when he chipped straight to mid-on. Northamptonshire quickly lost another wicket when Procter (10) chopped on to Hudson-Prentice to leave them behind the game at 115 for five.
Keogh (22), dropped at slip before scoring, shared a busy stand of 44 with McManus before he played on to one from Coles. McManus fell shortly after when he chipped Henry Crocombe high to midwicket. That though brought Taylor and Broad together and a memorable victory.