A powerful batting display earned Northants Steelbacks a seven-wicket victory over Essex Eagles and a first appearance in the Friends Life t20 final.
Overseas players Richard Levi and Cameron White impressed together with Steven Crook as the Steelbacks hunted down a target of 169 with 11 deliveries unused.
Levi bashed 57 at the top of the order, while White contributed 36 to an unbroken partnership of 78 in 5.5 overs with the destructive Crook, who finished unbeaten on 46 from 24 balls.
Hamish Rutherford and Graham Napier had cashed in on early let-offs to strike 36 and 38 not out respectively in Essex’s 168 for five.
Rutherford was dropped on nought by White at slip and Napier cracked four boundaries in five deliveries after Alex Wakely put down a sitter in the penultimate over.
Northants’ lapses in the field looked likely to prove costly when Levi’s departure was followed by a series of tight overs that sent the required rate beyond 11 an over.
However, after Crook had almost been caught at extra-cover by a diving Mark Pettini, the Midlands/Wales/West Group winners went into overdrive.
Five sixes and five fours came from the next 21 deliveries, Crook and White proving particularly strong down the ground, and Northants were able to celebrate the highest successful chase in finals day history.
Speaking of Crook, who rejoined Northants last winter, Northants captain Wakely said: “He can’t do anything wrong at the moment and long may that continue. I’m really pleased it’s happened on the big stage because the season he’s had so far has been fantastic.
“He’s been outstanding for us. The talk of the town in Northampton is he is the Northampton Botham at the moment. In all forms of cricket he’s playing brilliantly for us.”
Essex skipper James Foster also spoke highly of Crook, adding: “I know it’s probably looking too far away but I do think England should be taking a little look at Crook in my opinion. He’s had an exceptional season this year.”