Saif Zaib struck an incredible, unbeaten 70 from just 35 balls as the Northamptonshire Steelbacks claimed the points with two balls to spare.

Freddie Heldreich was the pick of the Steelbacks bowlers as he helped restrict the Rapids to 178 for six. The left-arm wrist spinner finished with figures of 3/28, striking in each of his opening three overs and was supported by a miserly Sanderson who picked up 1/22.

Zaib was the standout in the Steelbacks reply but it was an innings built on contributions and partnerships through the order. Ricardo Vasconcelos offered another impressive innings on his return from injury, while Cobb combined with Zaib for a crucial 70 run partnership in the middle.

The win is the Steelbacks second on the bounce and third overall, the loss is the Rapids first of the campaign.

Ben Sanderson got Northamptonshire off to a flier after David Willey won the toss and bowled in stunning conditions at New Road. The seamer found a flashing edge from Michael Bracewell that flew to Heldreich at short third in the opening over. The Rapids rode their luck after this though, reaching 60/1 at the end of the powerplay with a number of edges for four and Brett D’Oliveira seemingly escaping a run-out shout from a Willey direct-hit.

AJ Tye joined the attack and claimed the wicket of Jack Haynes as he holed out to Heldreich on the third boundary. In the very next over, Heldreich was involved once again as he tempted Adam Hose with a flighted delivery which eventually fell into the hands of Tom Taylor at long off, which saw Hose depart for a short-lived three runs.

Heldreich had himself a second wicket in his second over, with D’Oliveira’s luck running out on 38 runs as he picked out Vasconcelos at point. It was then three wickets in as many overs for Heldreich as he and Vasconcelos partnered up for another wicket, this time Kashif Ali only able to find a diving Vasconcelos at backward point with an excellent catch.

The Rapids found their feet after the flurry of wickets as Mitchell Santner and Ben Cox combined for a 40-run partnership from just 30 balls. It was broken by Taylor though when Santner failed to beat Willey at long off, the Northamptonshire Skipper taking a smart catch over his head on the rope.

Ben Cox was flashy on his way to an unbeaten 46 in 29 balls. The keeper-batter regularly finding the boundary with a mixture of power and fortune and found a willing partner in Pollock (16) to lift the Rapids to more than they looked to be getting initially.

The Steelbacks chase started with watchful but positive intent as they reached 45/1 in the Powerplay. Chris Lynn the man to go as he couldn’t clear D’Oliveira, Finch claiming the wicket with a fine opening spell of 1/3 from his first two overs.

David Willey’s attempt to accelerate was halted by Mitchell Santner as he had the Steelbacks captain caught for 20 from 16 balls. But Ricardo Vasconcelos provided a stylish 44 runs from just 26 balls (eight four’s, one six) on his return to the side before he fell to Bracewell at deep point.

Saif Zaib and Josh Cobb then began to rebuild in similar fashion to their partnership against the Falcons the week before. The pair put on 70 runs from 43 balls between them, Zaib the aggressor with a mixture of switch-hits and raw power.

With 34 runs needed from the final three overs, Zaib continued to push the pace with several shots finding the boundary rope, but Cobb fell victim to Pat Brown, top-edging his shot only as far as Bracewell running back from the circle.

Lewis McManus had some luck of his own during the Brown over as a pair of missed opportunities became six runs in two balls. First, Santner was blinded by the sun and overran his chance at deep midwicket before Cox couldn’t hang on to a skied top edge.

Needing 26 runs to win with just 12 balls remaining, Zaib reached his 50 (eight four’s) in 29 balls and with contributions from himself and Mcmanus, 11 runs from the over set up a final over requiring 15 runs to win.

Zaib couldn’t connect with a ramp off the first delivery, but swapped innovation for power with the next two as he swung a pair of slog sweeps high and long into a sell-out New Road crowd. He completed the chase the next ball as he lifted Brown straight back over his head to secure a valuable two points for the Steelbacks with two balls to spare.

The Steelbacks now travel to face Durham at the Riverside on Tuesday before a rematch against the Bears at Edgbaston Friday.