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STEELBACKS CLINCH HOME T20 'QUARTER' DESPITE DEFEAT

Northamptonshire Steelbacks secured a home NatWest T20 Blast quarter-final against Middlesex despite Friday night's 14-run defeat against Yorkshire at Wantage Road.

Jack Leaning and Alex Lees led the visitors into the last eight as well - sharing a century stand in just 8.3 overs as Yorkshire accelerated well to post 177 for 5. The Steelbacks were always behind in the chase but Alex Wakely’s career-best 64 in 42 balls steered his side past the 159 they needed to ensure their quarter-final will be back at Northampton.

Chasing 178 to win and the potential to top the north group, Northants were quickly in trouble with David Willey striking first ball to remove Josh Cobb lbw. Adam Rossington then chunked a pull to mid-on as Tim Bresnan bowled a wicket maiden fourth over of the innings.

But the form that Ben Duckett is currently enjoying defies any conditions and he made his way beautifully to 41 from 25 balls, chiefly with a lofted drive over extra-cover off Liam Plunkett and three sweeps - reverse and conventional - in an over from Azeem Rafiq. But Rafiq had the last laugh as Duckett top-edged the final ball of the Powerplay to short third man.

Consolidation was necessary and Alex Wakely steadied with Rob Keogh - who made 28 from 24 balls - before pulling Plunkett over midwicket for six and driving four over mid-off. Another pull off Will Rhodes brought six more. Fifty was raised in 28 balls and a fifth six, hoisted over long-on, secured the home quarter-final.

Yorkshire joined them in the last eight thanks to Leaning’s outstanding innings that resurrected the Yorkshire innings. He chanced his arm in Graeme White’s third over after the first two conceded only seven runs and claimed the wicket of Travis Head. Leaning skipped down the wicket to lift a six over long-on, a slog sweep cleared midwicket and Lees joined in with a straight-lofted drive for four.

That 13th over was taken for 20 runs and sparked a stuttering innings into life. Rory Kleinveldt missed a yorker and was slapped into the bar behind midwicket - two more heaves followed as Kleinveldt’s final over went for 18.

Leaning brought up a 22-ball fifty - scoring that was in stark contrast to that which had preceded him. His captain Alex Lees remained circumspect but also raised fifty - his first of the competition - in 45 balls. 

Their stand for the fourth wicket added exactly 100 in just 8.3 overs and from 66 for 3 after 11 overs, Yorkshire powered another 111 in the final nine.

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