A typical Northamptonshire masterclass of teamwork helped them cruise past an injury affected Middlesex side to reach Twenty20 finals day.
Early Middlesex confidence was soon dampened
Despite being down to their bare bones, Middlesex looked confident and relaxed before their County Ground outing. In an exclusive interview with Vavel, Australian George Bailey explained "we are all looking forward to the game", whilst batsman Nick Gubbins was a face of concentration as he claimed "we are focussed and ready to do what is required" after an extensive nets practice.
With both Brendan McCullum and Eoin Morgan not fit enough to play, Dawid Malam took the captaincy and elected to bat after winning the toss. Alex Wakeley claimed he would have chosen to bowl and the Steelbacks' skipper seemed to be justified in his thoughts when the hosts got off to a flying start.
Opening bowler Rory Kleinveldt picked up the wicket of Malam for a duck in the first over, before Richard Gleeson sent Gubbins back to the dugout as both batsman played onto their stumps in the opening two overs.
With the visitors 10-2, the game looked as if it could get away from Middlesex before it had even truly begun. Yet the experienced duo of Bailey and opener Paul Stirling settled the nerves as they built a hefty partnership.
Sri Lankan international Seekkuge Prasanna slowed the run rate in the middle overs and caused problems as Stirling was fortunate to survive a missed stumping opportunity by Adam Rossington. Yet the spin bowler eventually got his man, as Stirling holed out to Graham White for 35.
That wicket broke up a 68 run partnership and set the tone for wickets to tumble as Northamptonshire tore through their opponents. Prasanna quickly dismissed John Simpson, before Gleeson and Kleinveldt returned to pick up three more wickets between them, including Bailey for 46 as he went for a huge slog, thus preventing Middlesex from accelerating. The end product was a lacklustre 132-7 for the visitors.
Northants cruise to victory after a nervy start
With just over a run a ball required for Northamptonshire, many would play conservatively chasing such a total. Yet Richard Levi does not possess such a word in his vocabulary and came out typically all guns blazing. After smashing one six, he soon too edged a short Toby Roland-Jones delivery and fell for just 9.
Josh Cobb came to the crease and had a similar tactic in mind, only to follow the same route as Levi when Ryan Higgjns sent him packing for twelve.
Yet England Lion Ben Duckett joined opener Adam Rossington at the crease as the pair composed themselves and settled the flow of the game down. After making 58 between them, Duckett eventually lost concentration and looped a ball straight to Bailey for his second catch and Roland-Jones' second wicket.
Though Rossington remained and he made his way to 67 not out as Northamptonshire cruised to the target with 11 balls and 7 wickets remaining. They will face tougher tasks at Edgbaston but it was another solid display from an excellent team unit.