All-round White relights Northants fire
Northamptonshire 139 for 8 (Coetzer 40, Patel 3-19) beat Warwickshire 124 for 9 (Malik 47, Azharullah 2-23, White 2-25) by 15 runs
In the ten-year history of England's domestic Twenty20 competition, no team has managed to successfully defend the trophy. It is improbable Northamptonshire will break that streak this time around but they are doing their darnedest to not let go of the crown they won so spectacularly last year. For now, the club slogan of "reign, defend, conquer" that is plastered around Wantage Road remains credible.
The Steelbacks rediscovered all the traits of their unforeseen triumph in 2013 to end a six game winless run and kept their hopes, although slim, of progression from the North Group alive. David Willey and Steven Crook were to the fore with the ball, Azharullah sent stumps cartwheeling with his unerringly accurate yorkers, they hounded the opposition in the field and an allrounder named White produced a match-winning performance - not Cameron but Graeme.
The absence of Australia international White, who gave the side that much-needed balance, has proved more significant than anyone could have imagined. The failure to fill that void has been felt deeply, as their abject Championship form leaked into the shortest format with damning implications. But, this was the Northants of 2013 vintage.
White, Graeme that is, typified the exuberance of the hosts as he clubbed a game-turning 34 off just 12 deliveries at the backend of an otherwise feeble batting effort before taking two wickets to derail Birmingham's run chase. Before his intervention in the 17th over of the game, Northants were sinking into the mire.
But White played with the sort of liberty that none of his confidence-stricken team mates could summon to that point. Richard Levi gloved behind the first ball of the game, from Chris Wright, Willey miscued a heave and Crook followed in similar fashion - familiar failings in this campaign. At 89 for 6, they were facing submersion. Three maximums and as many fours changed the complexion of the game and swung the momentum, however - 50 runs were pummelled in the final four overs to lift the hosts up to a defendable total.
And so it proved as Birmingham never recovered. Willey bowled with the same vivacity as 12 months ago as he set the tone with the ball and in the field. He has yet to fully recover from the back injury that blighted his winter but there is no doubting his commitment to the cause.
Having bowled Varun Chopra with a slower ball, he exhibited all his tenacity in beating William Porterfield in a foot race to run the Ireland captain out and the Bears stumbled thereafter as they struggled to manage the run rate.
Shaoib Malik threatened to inflict more woe on the defending champions with a boundary-filled knock of 47 and, along with Jeetan Patel, reduced the scenario to 32 off three overs. But, there was a renewed purpose to Northants. Azharullah returned to combine with Willey to have Malik caught inches inside the boundary; these were the tight margins Northants were edging last year and they managed to rediscover that knack just in the nick of time.
Northants had disintegrated in similar fashion but were kept afloat by Kyle Coetzer, who went about the rebuilding process with a watchful 40. He was ably supported by Adam Rossington who had only just completed the paperwork on a loan move from Middlesex. He rode his luck at times - something that has been in short supply at Northants. That a player who had failed to get into double figures in eight innings this season was brought in underlines the extent of Northants' injury list but Rossington, batting with a numberless shirt, helped ensure there would be a platform for White.