Leicestershire 214 for 6 (Ackermann 85) beat Northamptonshire 213 for 7 (Lynn 68, Cobb 53, Neesham 51, Parkinson 2-34) by one run
In dramatic circumstances, Leicestershire Foxes prevailed over the Northamptonshire Steelbacks by one run to pull off the win they needed to keep alive their chance of snatching a quarter-final place in the Vitality Blast. After winning their last four fixtures, the Foxes can qualify with a victory in their final match on Sunday at home to Yorkshire Vikings after the Vikings were beaten by Birmingham Bears at Headingley. Had the result there gone the other way, the Foxes would have been out.
Steelbacks, likewise needing a win to have any chance of progressing, responded with half-centuries from Chris Lynn, Josh Cobb and Jimmy Neesham, but chasing down the Foxes total proved just beyond them despite an extraordinary last over in which they needed 19 to win and might have pulled it off had a furious Neesham not been run out with three balls to go after a mix-up with team-mate Tom Taylor.
Leicestershire’s total was built on their best powerplay of the season, in which they plundered 61 for 1 after Nick Welch lofted Josh Cobb over long-off for six and pulled Taylor for another maximum before Hill scooped Neesham over the rope at fine leg.
They were checked by the loss of both openers in consecutive overs as Welch was leg before trying to work Graeme White to leg and Hill, who had been dropped off Taylor on 5, bottom-edged into his stumps off Freddie Heldreich. But new men Arron Lilley and Ackermann restored the momentum to move the total to 100 for 2 at halfway and the pair had added 62 in 41 balls before they were parted when Lilley was bowled by White sweeping in the 14th.
Wiaan Mulder holed out after three deliveries but the last five overs added 72 runs, 39 of them from Ackermann, who crashed two sixes off Ben Sanderson and another off Taylor before he chased a wide ball from the former to be caught at extra cover, but with Ben Mike and Louis Kimber chipping in usefully.
Foxes’ defence began with a wicket first ball as Ben Curran was adjudged to be leg before as he missed a reverse sweep against Callum Parkinson. Steelbacks recovered to 44 for 1 after six, although the rate required was above 12.
The visiting side reached halfway needing another 125 but it was in their favour that Cobb and Lynn were still together, the Australian big-hitter completing his sixth half-century of the competition with a straight six out of the ground at the pavilion end off Mike, before his fourth maximum – his second off young legspinner Rehan Ahmed – brought up the 100 partnership.
Lynn was threatening to take the game away from Foxes, so there were huge celebrations when the Queenslander, who had gone past 500 runs for the season, hit a wide Mulder full toss straight into the safe hands of Ackermann at mid-off.
When Cobb, having just gone past fifty, found Mulder at long-on off Ackermann and Parkinson claimed his second lbw against a reverse sweep to dismiss Saif Zaib, the Steelbacks had lost three wickets in as many overs to be 147 for 4 after 15, needing 68 from 30 balls with the Foxes now favourites.
After the Neesham had clubbed two sixes off Mike, drama in the penultimate over, which went for 17, saw Naveen ul-Haq unable to complete the over after bowling two full tosses over waist height, Lewis McManus hitting the second free hit for six.
And more followed in the final over, which the Foxes had to start with five fielders inside the circle after going past the cut-off time. Neesham drove Mike’s first and third balls for six and four either side of a sacrificial run-out by McManus but with six needed off the last two balls after Mike had bowled a wide, Taylor stayed in his crease as Neesham went for a second run, leaving his partner comfortably run out.
Three off the last ball would have tied the contest but White’s straight drive was worth only two.