8:19pm Friday 30th May 2014
WORCESTERSHIRE Rapids launched their home programme in the NatWest T20 Blast in convincing fashion with a five-wicket victory over holders Northamptonshire Steelbacks at New Road.
The Rapids made it back to back victories in the competition after their win over Nottinghamshire Outlaws at Trent Bridge last Friday as they chased down a 135 target with more than five overs to spare.
Northamptonshire looked set for a sizeable total after plundering 47 runs in four overs on deciding to bat.
But some superb bowling from all parts of the attack and excellent fielding by the home side turned the tables on the visitors.
Then some ferocious hitting from Moeen Ali and Richard Oliver propelled the county to their fifth win over Northants in the last six completed T20 games between the two sides.
Shropshire captain Oliver,who is looking to earn a contract with the county, registered his first 50 for the county off just 29 balls with two sixes and six fours.
He was finalled dismissed for 77 made off just 43 balls with three sixes and nine fours.
Northants won the toss and elected to bat and David Willey hit the first six of the game over long on in the opening over from Moeen Ali.
Willey, the man of the match in last season's Twenty20 final at Edgbaston, was fortunate in Jack Shantry's first over to pop the ball up on the offside in between three fielders and then inside-edged the same bowler for four.
He picked up two sixes in the opening over from Chris Russell backward of square and over mid-wicket and another over long on off Shantry.
The 50 came up in the fifth over before Shantry made the first breakthrough as Willey (34) pulled him to Mitchell at mid wicket.
It became 76-2 when Richard Levi (27) lofted Moeen to Chris Russell at long on.
The Worcestershire bowlers tightened their grip after removing the openers and Saeed Ajmal trapped David Sales (5) lbw on the back foot.
The 100 came up in the 14th over but, in the same over from Russell, Steven Crook (8) perished on the cover boundary to Alexei Kervezee.
Ben Duckett (4) gave Moeen the charge and was neatly stumped by Ben Cox as the home side started to exercise almost total control.
Mitchell took a fine catch running back from mid on off Russell to dismiss Matthew Spriegel (1) and Kyle Coetzer (31) was run out by bowler Russell's direct hit after attempting a quick single.
Moeen (2-23), Russell (2-24) and Saeed (1-14) returned the best figures for the Rapids.
Worcestershire began at an even more rapid rate and the 50 came up in just 3.4 overs thanks to some ferocious hitting from Moeen and Richard Oliver.
Moeen hit Crook over long on for six and picked up two boundaries off Butler but Oliver excelled his efforts in the fifth over from Mohammad Azharullah.
He struck two sixes and two fours in an over which cost 21 runs and at the end of the powerplay Worcestershire stood on 67-0.
The partnership was worth 91 in nine overs when Moeen was caught at long off by Spriegel off James Middlebrook for 41.
But Oliver continued to blaze away and, despite the loss of some late wickets, victory was clinched in the 15th over.
Meanwhile unbeaten Worcestershire have named an unchanged side for the LV = County Championship Division Two match with Surrey at the Kia Oval starting on Sunday.
Director of Cricket Steve Rhodes has kept faith with the line-up which held the upper hand in the rain-ravaged encounter with Kent at Tunbridge Wells in which only 17 overs play were possible after the opening day.
The county have won their three home matches with Kent, Derbyshire and Essex and drew their three clashes away from New Road - all badly affected by the weather - with Hampshire, Glamorgan and Kent.
Included in the Surrey side will be former Worcestershire spinner Gareth Batty who returned career best figures of 8-68 against Essex this week after his return to the team.
Worcestershire: Mitchell (captain), Pardoe, Moeen Ali, Fell, Kervezee, Whiteley, Cox (wicket-keeper), Leach, Shantry, Ajmal, Morris. 12th man Oliver.
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