Derbyshire were left shellshocked after England all rounder David Willey hit 60 off 27 balls to inspire Northamptonshire to their first win of the 2015 Natwest T20 Blast.
Willey was the star of the show after being released from the national team’s one-day squad and helped his side to what was in the end a comfortable six-wicket win over Derbyshire at Wantage Road.
After losing the toss and bowling first, the home side would have taken all the encouragement on offer after three straight defeats out of three. The best possible variety arrived in Willey’s opening over.
Derbyshire’s Sri Lankan star Tillekaratne Dilshan tried his scoop shot, only to see middle and leg stump knocked back. It’s the Sri Lankan’s final innings before a stint with the Caribbean Premier League.
Twenty seven runs came off the first four overs with Wes Durston providing most of the momentum. But Chesney Hughes wafted at Steven Crook’s first ball outside the offstump and edged to Ben Duckett which was immediately followed by Wayne Madsen being trapped palpably LBW first ball.
That left Derbyshire 37-3 but Scott Elstone helped Durston put on 52 for the fourth wicket, with a slog sweep just over midwicket off Shahid Afridi his highlight.
As the Falcons tried to up the tempo, Shiv Thakor was run out for 15 when going for a third, although third umpire Mark Benson had to check whether Willey had touched the rope in preventing a boundary before effecting the dismissal.
Tom Poynton bludgeoned two sixes off the final over but the Falcons captain was left largely alone to keep the attack going. He carried his bat for 77 off 63 balls, with his 50 coming off 41. Derbyshire’s 166-7 seemed to be only just enough though.
The Steelbacks lost Richard Levi from Shiv Thakor’s opening over, clipping to Wayne Madsen inside the circle at backward square leg and Derbyshire sensed they were in the game.
But Willey decided to up the rate in exciting fashion and took 24 off the fourth over bowled by Dilshan from the Turner Stand End. Two sixes sailed over long off, followed by a Cowdrey-esque cover-drive for four and the over was completed with another huge six down the ground.
Willey - who reached his 50 off 21 balls with a smear through long off from Wayne White - greeted Chesney Hughes’s introduction with another smear over long-on, but was caught gleefully by Madsen off Palladino in the next over.
Shahid Afridi picked up where Willey left off and continued the frenetic pace. Surviving a tight stumping appeal off Hughes, the Pakistani globetrotter added 34 off 17 before Billy Godleman’s footwork in front of the boundary rope allowed a stunning catch for Thakor’s second wicket.
But Alex Wakely and Steven Crook saw Northants home for their first win in 2015 and consign Derbyshire to a fourth defeat in five, to win by six wickets with 13 balls to spare.
Northamptonshire’s David Willey hopes his man of the match performance can spark the Steelbacks’s rise up the Northern Group table.
He said: “That was a great night and we did need to win that. Fortunately, 167 to win was only just above par and I haven’t scored that many runs in the competition this year.
“I thought I’d go and have a dip and if I get out, those two guys (Levi and Cobb) are in good form. But fortunately, today was my day and we got a comfortable win.”
Derbyshire captain Wes Durston said: “I thought the score was a bit above par, but only a bit and from where we were halfway through, I’d have taken that. We never really had the chance to kick on after that.
“We definitely felt that they were going to go hard in the powerplay, but not for one minute did we think that Willey would make 60 off 27 balls.”