Gloucestershire keep their cool
Gloucestershire's seamers held their nerve to help beat Northamptonshire in a thrilling finale at Bristol and maintain their prospects of reaching the semi-finals of the Clydesdale Bank 40.
Needing victory to close the gap on Group B leaders Yorkshire to two points, the Gladiators stood up under pressure to win by seven runs, despite the best efforts of David Sales.
The Steelbacks were always in with a chance of chasing down a victory target of 193, but accurate bowling from Anthony Ireland and the wily Jon Lewis earned the hosts a third success in four outings.
Northants needed 14 runs to win from the last two overs, only to fall short in the face of clever variation in pace as Sales finished unbeaten on 59.
He had threatened to win the game as he shared a sixth-wicket stand of 73 in 12 overs with Andrew Hall.
Yet the Gladiators refused to panic, kept the run-rate in check courtesy of a miserly spell of 2-20 from eight overs from slow left-armer Vikram Banerjee and fielded with an intensity that proved too much for their opponents.
Hall's departure, caught at short fine-leg off a knee-high full toss from Lewis for 37 in the 36th over, proved a turning point, and from then on Lewis and Ireland deprived Sales of the strike.
Gloucestershire were indebted to skipper Alex Gidman for steering them to a competitive total after they won the toss and slipped to 77 for four at the halfway stage.
Batting proved far from straightforward on a two-paced pitch, the top order struggling to take advantage of the powerplays as Northants seized a stranglehold on the game.
James Franklin perished attempting to drive a ball of full length from Jack Brooks, Jon Batty chipped David Willey to point without scoring and Will Porterfield edged behind to become the first of four victims for South African all-rounder Hall.
Hamish Marshall played defensively down the wrong line and was bowled by Northants captain Nicky Boje as wickets continued to tumble and, when Chris Taylor was pinned lbw playing back to Lee Daggett, half of Gloucestershire's batsmen were back in the pavilion with 105 runs on the board and only 14 overs remaining.
Gidman was joined by Steve Snell and the sixth-wicket pair set about repairing the damage with a stand of 76 in 12 overs.
Snell chanced his arm on more than one occasion and was the only player to score at a run a ball or better, raising 41 from 40 deliveries and helping himself to five fours to put the visitors on the back foot for the first time.
In contrast, Gidman's innings was a painstaking affair, comprising 86 balls and including just three boundaries, yet contributing 61 crucial runs.
Hall ensured Gloucestershire did not go past the 200 mark, exploiting his full repertoire of slower balls and yorkers to bowl Snell and Gidman and have Ireland caught at short fine-leg to finish with 4- 39 from seven overs.