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STEELBACKS TRIUMPH IN 'BLAST' OPENER

A brutal half-century from opener Richard Levi, made off just 20 balls, helped the Steelbacks make a winning start to their NatWest T20 Blast campaign against local rivals Leicestershire Foxes.

Even then, Leicestershire took the game to the final over, before Steelbacks’ overseas player Seekkuge Prasanna lifted the first ball he faced for the club high over backward square for six to complete victory.

Playing for the first time under the new permanent lights now installed at Grace Road, Leicestershire were put in by the visitors, and their innings began in some style, openers Mark Cosgrove and Mark Pettini taking 62 from the six over powerplay.

Cosgrove’s dismissal for 27, leg before wicket to Azharullah, resulted in a marked loss of momentum, exacerbated by the introduction of Prasanna.  Although there was no real turn for the leg-spinner, the Leicestershire batsmen found him hard to get away, and Prasanna also picked up a wicket, Kevin O’Brien trying to hit him over long-off and giving Josh Cobb a comfortable catch.

With Prasanna conceding only seven runs from his first two overs, Pettini tried to force the pace at the other end, and was given leg before after missing an attempted slog-sweep at the left-arm spin of Graeme White.

Niall O’Brien chopped a Rory Kleinveldt slower ball onto his middle stump, and had Richard Levi not dropped an Umar Akmal skier off the bowling of Azharullah, Leicestershire’s innings might have petered out.

As it was, however, Pakistan international Akmal, a surprise omission from his country’s training camp in preparation for their forthcoming tour of England, began to connect cleanly. Together with Tom Wells, he picked up 23 runs from the final over, going to his 50 off the last ball, to ensure the Foxes set a reasonably challenging total.

It looked considerably less challenging after Levi’s fine innings, and the opener received effective support from fellow opener Adam Rossington as Northants raced to 87-1 from just seven overs. 

Although Levi then steered a ben Raine full toss straight to extra cover, Ben Duckett batted sensibly, hitting 37 not out on either side of a rain delay that reduced the visitors’ target to 164 from 18 overs.

“We weren’t at our sharpest, but their start set up the game for them and Levi played sensationally,” said Foxes’ director of elite performance Andrew MacDonald.

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