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Holders off to winning start

Ben Duckett held his nerve to help Northants Steelbacks launch the defence of their Twenty20 title with a thrilling three-wicket win over Yorkshire Vikings at Headingley.

Duckett's unbeaten, career-best 39 outdid the Vikings' hard-working collective as NatWest T20 Blast had lift-off in Yorkshire with a memorable contest.

He was aided by 4-25 on debut from New Zealand seamer Ian Butler and a brutal 43 at the top of the order from David Willey - hero of last summer's Edgbaston final against Surrey.

Liam Plunkett and Tim Bresnan's 54-run stand, from a very wobbly 87 for six, made a match of it by rescuing 162 for seven after Yorkshire chose to bat.

It was ultimately insufficient but confirmed only off the penultimate ball of the match, when Graeme White struck the only delivery he faced past point for four off Ryan Sidebottom to get Northants home.

White therefore consolidated the very good work of England Under-19 wicketkeeper Duckett, whose composed and powerful 39 from 29 balls did so much to seal the deal.

Willey provided the run-chase with telling momentum, enough to withstand a mid-innings fightback via Richard Pyrah's 2-21 in his full four overs.

After an opening stand of 45, Willey's partner Richard Levi became the first of two victims in successive balls for Jack Brooks in the field - against his old club.

Graeme White and Ben Duckett, who was unbeaten on 39, embrace after Northants snatched victory in a compelling game with Yorkshire

Brooks held a steepling catch at long-leg off Plunkett and then, up to short third man next ball to Willey, ran out Kyle Coetzer for nought without receiving a ball.

Willey had clubbed three fours and three sixes when he failed to get quite enough on another big hit at Pyrah, and was caught at long-off.

It seemed Yorkshire might be edging the verdict, especially when Pyrah had danger man Steven Crook lbw with his final delivery - but Duckett had other ideas.

The hosts had appeared set to fall well under par with the bat, losing regular wickets until Plunkett and Bresnan dug in.

First-change Butler started their problems when he struck with his second delivery, Andrew Gale well caught at deep mid-off by a tumbling Coetzer in the third over.

Kane Williamson started well only to be run out by Willey's direct-hit to the non-striker's end from backward point, and Joe Root's attempt to manufacture runs fine on the leg side by going across his stumps resulted in an lbw departure to Muhammad Azhar Ullah.

Every Yorkshire batsman but Gale got a start, the sequence continuing with Gary Ballance - sweeping slow left-armer White aerially to short fine-leg - and Adil Rashid holing out to another good catch at long-on off Butler.

Jonny Bairstow hit well and with his trademark power until he went lbw aiming leg-side to put Butler on a hat-trick in the 13th over, and leave Bresnan and Plunkett with plenty to do.

They did not disappoint the raucous home crowd, Plunkett setting the tone and dominating a half-century stand in 38 balls which helped to ensure the tense finish.

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