Worcestershire Rapids went down with all guns blazing as Northamptonshire Steelbacks triumphed by just two runs in a NatWest T20 Blast thriller at New Road this evening.
The Rapids were set a demanding 194 target but were in contention all the way thanks to fine knocks from Daryl Mitchell, Tom Kohler-Cadmore, Colin Munro, Ben Cox and Ross Whiteley.
Whiteley was on strike for the final over by Muhammad Azharullah with 14 required for victory.
The big-hitting left-hander struck five successive twos and, with a boundary needed off the final ball, scrambled a leg bye.
It was a brave effort by the Rapids and thrilled another packed crowd as a run of three successive wins was ended by the narrowest of margins.
But their performances in the T20 Blast indicate they will remain in strong contention to qualify for the knockout stages.
The Steelbacks were put into bat and were given a flying start by David Willey and Richard Levi as the 50 came up in fifth over.
But the Rapids gradually dragged the scoring rate back until 60 runs came from the last 2.3 overs thanks to some explosive hitting by Steven Crook and Rory Kleinveldt.
Jack Shantry made the first breakthrough when Levi (19) holed out to Moeen Ali on the mid wicket boundary and then Willey (31) was caught at short fine leg by Shantry off Saeed Ajmal.
Wickets started to tumble with Brett D'Oliveira brilliantly running out Josh Cobb (2) with a direct hit from backward point.
Ben Duckett (7) top-edged a sweep at D'Oliveira to Mitchell at short extra cover and it became 112-5 when Alex Wakeley (23) became Ajmal's second victim.
Adam Rossington (6) holed out to Whiteley at long off from a Shantry delivery and Rob Keogh (1) was run out after turning Shantry to Kohler-Cadmore at backward point and attempting a single.
The Steelbacks were 133-7 mid-way through the 18th over but then Crook – 56 not out with four sixes – and Kleinveldt with a brutal 42 off 12 balls with six sixes demonstrated some big hitting.
The latter was dismissed to the last ball of the innings from Ed Barnard to a fine tumbling catch at long off by Moeen.
Shantry (2-50), Barnard (1-31), Ajmal (2-41) and D'Oliveira (1-26) were the Rapids wicket-takers.
Moeen, in his final innings before linking up with England, fell to the first ball of the Rapids innings from Kleinveldt with Rob Keogh taking the catch at extra cover.
Kohler-Cadmore looked in good touch and brought the 50 up in partnership with Mitchell in the fifth over.
The pair added 75 in seven overs before Kohler-Cadmore (36) was trapped lbw by Crook.
Mitchell (34) was then unfortunate to be run out at the non striker's end as a straight drive from Munro was deflected onto the stumps by bowler Cobb.
It became 96-4 when D'Oliveira (8) was caught and bowled by Graeme White but the Rapids continued to score at close to the required rate.
Munro made a quickfire 34 before he was caught at long off from a slower delivery by Muhammad Azharullah.
Whiteley and Cox (24) added a breezy 54 for the sixth wicket before the latter went for a reverse sweep against the returning Kleinveldt and was pouched at short fine leg by Azharullah.
Whiteley continued to demonstrate his trademark hitting in making an ubbeaten 41 from 29 balls with two sixes but the Steelbacks crept home.