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May 16, 2014
Northamptonshire 165 for 7 (Willey 43, Duckett 39*) beat Yorkshire 162 for 7 (Plunkett 36, Butler 4-25) by three wickets
Ben Duckett held his nerve to help Northamptonshire launch the defence of their Twenty20 title with a thrilling three-wicket win over Yorkshire at Headingley.
Four for 25 on debut from New Zealand seamer Ian Butler, a brutal 43 at the top of the order from David Willey - hero of last summer's Edgbaston final against Surrey - and then finally Duckett's unbeaten career-best score of 39 outdid Yorkshire's hard-working collective.
In front of a crowd which could be best described, in local parlance, as only "middling" - at approaching 5,500 - the revamped NatWest T20 Blast nonetheless had lift-off with a memorable contest.
Liam Plunkett and Tim Bresnan's 54-run stand, from a very wobbly 87 for 6, made a match of it by rescuing Yorkshire after they chose to bat. It was ultimately insufficient but confirmed only off the penultimate ball of the match, when Graeme White struck the only delivery he faced past point for four off Ryan Sidebottom to get Northamptonshire home.
White therefore consolidated the very good work of England Under-19s wicketkeeper Duckett, whose composed and powerful innings, from 29 balls, did so much to seal the deal.
Willey provided the run chase with telling momentum, enough to withstand a mid-innings fightback via Richard Pyrah's 2 for 21 in his full four overs. After an opening stand of 45, Willey's partner Richard Levi became the first of two victims in successive balls for Jack Brooks in the field, against his old club.
Brooks held a steepling catch at long leg off Plunkett and then, up to short third-man next ball to Willey, ran out Kyle Coetzer for 0 without receiving a ball.
Willey had clubbed three fours and three sixes when he failed to get quite enough on another big hit at Pyrah, and was caught at long off. It seemed Yorkshire might be edging the verdict, especially when Pyrah had danger man Steven Crook lbw with his final delivery - but Duckett had other ideas.
The hosts had appeared set to fall well under par with the bat, losing regular wickets until Plunkett and Bresnan dug in. First-change bowler Butler started their problems when he struck with his second delivery, Andrew Gale very well-caught at deep mid-off by a tumbling Coetzer in the third over.
Kane Williamson started well only to be run out by Willey's direct hit to the non-striker's end from backward-point, and Joe Root's attempt to manufacture runs fine on the leg side by going across his stumps resulted in an lbw departure to Azharullah.
Every Yorkshire batsman but Gale got a start, the sequence continuing with Gary Ballance, who swept slow left-armer Graeme White aerially to short fine-leg, and Adil Rashid holing out to another good catch at long on off Butler.
Jonny Bairstow hit well and with his trademark power until he went lbw aiming leg side to put Butler on a hat-trick in the 13th over, and leave Bresnan and Plunkett with plenty to do. They did not disappoint the raucous home crowd, Plunkett setting the tone and dominating a half-century stand in 38 balls which helped to ensure the tense finish.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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