Willey blasts Northants to victory
David Willey's explosive 95 off just 45 balls propelled Northants Steelbacks to a two-wicket triumph over Leicestershire Foxes in a rain-reduced NatWest T20 Blast encounter at Wantage Road.
Willey is fast gaining a reputation as one of the hottest properties in the shortest format and his bombastic innings helped the defending champions edge to their second victory from two games in a match that was reduced to 18 overs per side.
Half-centuries from Josh Cobb and Greg Smith helped Leicestershire to 176 for four after they were invited to bat, but Willey laid the platform for the lower order to edge over the line with two balls to spare.
The left-hander, who was key to Northants' win in the final last year, has been unable to bowl this season because of an ongoing back injury, but as opening batsman he was nigh-on unstoppable against Cobb's men.
Richard Levi got Northants' chase off to a strong start by taking 14 off Nathan Buck in the second over, although the bowler would have the last laugh when he bowled the hard-hitting South African.
Another special night for Northamptonshire Sport - Steelbacks win in a thriller and the @SaintsRugby win the Amlin Cup #GoSteelbacks — Northants Cricket (@NorthantsCCC) May 23, 2014
Levi's opening partner Willey thumped the first of his six sixes in the next over and appeared to be thoroughly enjoying his task when he took two maximums in three balls off Anthony Ireland.
He did enjoy a bit of luck on 44 when Scott Styris and substitute fielder Matt Boyce left it to each other to take a catch, with neither doing so.
It proved a costly let-off as Willey kept motoring on, despite the dismissals of Kyle Coetzer, Rob Newton and Steven Crook, easily overtaking his previous highest T20 score of 60.
He appeared on course for a maiden T20 century but fell five runs short when he skied Ireland to Ned Eckersley.
Northants still required 30 off 24 balls, but their lower order saw them squeeze home, with Graeme White hammering Rob Taylor for four to hit the winning boundary for a second straight Friday.
Leicestershire captain Cobb appeared to have put his side in a commanding position with an excellent 70 off 45 balls, while he was ably supported by Smith's 56 off 37 deliveries in a partnership of 113 for the second wicket.
Styris took 19 runs off the final over in a fantastic cameo 27, but it proved to be a footnote to Willey's brilliance.