Worcestershire Rapids launched their home programme in the NatWest T20 Blast in convincing fashion with an impressive five wicket victory over holders Northamptonshire Steelbacks at New Road yesterday evening.
The Rapids made it back to back victories in the competition after their win over Nottinghamshire Outlaws at Trent Bridge as they chased down a 135 target with almost six overs to spare.
 
Northamptonshire looked set for a sizeable total after gathering 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 triallist 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.
 
There was a carnival atmosphere inside New Road as the newly branded Rapids took to the field to fireworks from the top of the Graeme Hick Pavilion.
 
Skipper Daryl Mitchell led the Rapids side onto the outfield to warm applause for the opening home T20 Blast game of the campaign – and a greeting from new club mascot Nile The Crocodile.
 
Northants opener David Willey hit the first six of the game over long on in the opening over from Moeen.
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 spinner 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 then Kyle Coetzer (31) was run out by bowler Russell's direct hit after attempting a quick single.
Ajmal conceded just 14 runs in his four overs but Moeen (2-23) and Russell (2-24) also bowled tightly with the latter showing plenty of mettle in recovering from an expensive first over.
 
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 before Oliver excelled 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.
 
Oliver continued to blaze away and had made 77 from 43 balls with victory almost clinched when he was dismissed and he left the field to warm applause from the healthy crowd. Meanwhile unbeaten Worcestershire have named an unchanged side for the LV = County Championship Division Two match with Surrey at the Kia Oval starting tomorrow.
 
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.
All-rounder Gareth Andrew is not fit enough to return after his recent back problem which has kept him out of the last two Championship matches and opening four NatWest T20 Blast games.
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.
Worcestershire: Mitchell (captain), Pardoe, Moeen Ali, Fell, Kervezee, Whiteley, Cox (wicket-keeper), Leach, Shantry, Ajmal, Morris. 12th man Oliver.