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Steelbacks keep hopes alive

Northants Steelbacks kept their slim hopes of reaching the NatWest T20 Blast quarter-finals alive with a four-wicket defeat of Derbyshire Falcons at Wantage Road.

Chasing the visitors' 191 for six, the hosts reached the target in relative comfort with four balls remaining.

Victories for Birmingham Bears and Yorkshire Vikings mean that they will probably need to win all of their three remaining matches but all that could be asked was that they finished the evening still in contention and that aim has been achieved.

Having been put in, the visitors recovered strongly from the early loss of Chesney Hughes and by the end of the powerplay had reached 54 for one.

That was down to Marcus North and Gareth Cross whose contrasting styles complemented each other nicely and the pair motored along at eight an over without too much fuss.

Cross was the more dominant, and unorthodox, of the two and he got to within two of his half-century before picking out cover off Steven Crook.

His dismissal came three overs after North had top-edged a sweep from James Middlebrook to deep midwicket and arrived just after three figures had been posted.

South African power-hitter Richard Levi clubs one of four sixes during his superb innings of 69 in Northants Steelbacks' victory

Wayne Madsen followed him back to the pavilion in the same Crook over and these two dismissals put a brake of things for a short while.

But once Alex Hughes had provided Crook with his third wicket of the evening, Tom Knight took over.

From only 18 deliveries, he hammered 44 with 30 of those coming from five blows as 63 was plundered from the final four overs to turn what looked like being a par score into a formidable 191 for six.

The Steelbacks' reply opened briskly as Richard Levi, after a sequence of three runs in his last four innings, began with a glut of boundaries and when the fielding restrictions ended, the score, albeit without the loss of any wickets, was identical.

David Willey was struggling with his timing at one end but it did not matter as the South African carried him along in his wake on the way to a 28-ball 50.

His evening's work concluded as he found deep midwicket off David Wainwright for 69 and his departure gave the chase a different complexion manifested itself in the dismissals of Kyle Coetzer and Crook in the next couple of overs.

Seamer Steven Crook celebrates the dismissal of Derbyshire skipper Wayne Madsen for 10, one of two wickets in the 13th over

While Willey was at the crease the hosts would have fancied their chances but the odds lengthened when, the ball after hoisting Wainwright for a massive six, he mis-hit to the leg-side boundary.

Fifty-seven were needed from the final five overs but Adam Rossington quickly rounded this down with a mix of baseball-esque hitting and more orthodox fare.

Both he and Ben Duckett fell in the 19th over bowled by Greg Cork but Graeme White hit his first two balls over the ropes to wrap things up.

Levi said: "It was time for the batters to put up their hands. We've been struggling in the past couple of games. The bowlers have snuck us out of a couple, and this was our chance.

"They didn't bowl as well as I thought they would do up front, so it gave me and Dave (Willey) one or two easier balls to get away and we got off to a decent start."

Knight said: "We came off at half-time thinking we had a good score, but unfortunately the guys at the top played really well for them and that won them the game.

"They're not massive boundaries and once you get going can be difficult to stop, and (Richard) Levi just went for it. It came off, and he played really well."

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