After winning their opening game at Headingley against Yorkshire Vikings last week, the Steelbacks put on a thriller for their home fans, in the NatWest T20 Blast East Midlands Derby against Leicestershire Foxes.
Steelbacks skipper Kyle Coetzer put Leicestershire into bat first on a wet pitch, after rain had delayed the start by 45 minutes. Former Steelback Niall O’Brien and Foxes Captain Josh Cobb, gave Leicestershire a quick start as they put on 29 before O’Brien was caught by David Willey off Ian Butler for 15, at the end of the third over.
Greg Smith came in at three for Leicestershire, and put a big partnership together with Josh Cobb, as both men reached their half centuries. Smith finally fell in the 15th over, only after he and Cobb had added 113 runs to the Leicestershire total, with Ian Butler finally putting an end to the partnership, clean bowling Smith for 56.
Cobb followed Smith shortly after, as he was caught by Crook off Azhar Ullah for 70, in the 16th over. Leicestershire’s overseas player, Scott Styris came in and had a good cameo scoring 27 off 15 including 2 sixes, before he was also caught off Azhar Ullah in the final over.
The Steelbacks’ two big hitters, Richard Levi and David Willey opened the batting, with Levi getting off to a very quick start smashing 17 off 10. This included 14 in the second over off Nathan Buck, before the bowler got his revenge as he bowled Levi, with the score on 19/1 after 2 overs.
With David Willey looking in imperious form, Kyle Coetzer tried to ensure the opener had the majority of the strike, as Willey went to work on the Leicestershire attack, hitting them to all parts of the ground. After putting on a 70 run partnership with Willey, Coetzer was finally trapped lbw by Cobb for 15 in the 8th over.
When Newton (8) and Crook (2) fell in the space of three runs, some Steelbacks fans would have felt slightly worried and knew they would need Willey to continue to dominate the strike. Willey carried on his all-out assault on the Leicestershire bowlers, looking like he would reach his century, but fell agonisingly short, as he was caught by Eckersley off Ireland for 95. Willey’s outstanding 95 came off just 45 balls, including 6 sixes and the County Ground gave him a deserved standing ovation as he left the pitch, after an innings that is sure to have been noticed by the England selectors.
With the Steelbacks needing 30 off 27 balls, much like last week Ben Duckett partnered by Ian Butler, was at the crease with the hope of seeing the Steelbacks through to victory once again. However things quickly changed, as Duckett, Butler and Matthew Spriegel all fell in the space of 7 balls, with the Steelbacks still needing 5 to win off 5 balls and with only 2 wickets remaining.
The Steelbacks had a bit of luck during their innings, no more so than when Graeme White was dropped on the third ball of the final over, as the Steelbacks moved onto 175. Leicestershire would have been kicking themselves after yet another missed chance, as with the very next ball, much like the previous week, White hit a four to give the Steelbacks a brilliant two wicket victory!
This victory means the Steelbacks are the only unbeaten team in the group. Next up for the Steelbacks, is another NatWest T20 Blast game as they take on Derbyshire away on Thursday 29th May.