Mitchell leaves Northants on precipice
Worcestershire 162 for 9 (Munro 49, Cox 46) beat Northamptonshire 131 (Mitchell 5-28) by 31 runs
Daryl Mitchell's maiden five wicket haul in T20s left holders Northamptonshire on the verge of elimination from the Natwest T20 Blast. Mitchell's 5 for 28 sent the holder's to a 31-run defeat to Worcestershire and now if Nottinghamshire get the better of Leicestershire on Sunday at Trent Bridge then Northants' defence of the title is as good as over.
Daryl Mitchell and Colin Munro were the stars for the victors, the former claiming his maiden five-wicket haul in any format to help dismiss the hosts for 131 in reply to Worcestershire's 162 for 9 - a total built around Munro's quickfire 49.
After Richard Oliver fell to the first ball of the match, lofting Matt Spriegel inexplicably to long-off, marginally in excess of 50 was taken from the Powerplay. That included the fall of Tom Kohler-Cadmore but Munro was quickly into his stride with a salvo of boundaries.
Mitchell fell to the first ball after the fielding restrictions had been relaxed and Ross Whiteley was excellently run out by Steven Crook but that brought in Ben Cox who provided excellent support for Munro.
The duo added 49 in slightly more than four overs and while they were going a substantial total looked on the cards. But the New Zealander's departure for a 30-ball 49, run out by bowler David Willey at the non-striker's end after calling Cox through, meant that expectations had to be lowered.
Cox moved on to a career-best Twenty20 score of 46 but the loss of four wickets in the last five overs, three of which fell in the 20th bowled by Muhammad Azharullah, and the addition of only 39 combined to make the final score of 162 seemingly under par.
Northamptonshire openers Richard Levi and Willey responded solidly and had taken 42 from the runs required column before the latter had his stumps rattled by Joe Leach.
When the Powerplay finished, 115 were needed from 84 balls which represents a fairly straightforward task in the majority of cases but the fall of Levi and Kyle Coetzer, both to Shaaiq Choudhry, who took two for 21, changed the balance of power slightly.
The scales tipped further in Worcestershire's favour when Crook gave Mitchell a return catch in his first over and that put Adam Rossington in the spotlight. The loanee hauled a couple of sixes over the leg-side to keep the hosts in touch but he fell lbw to Mitchell and when Rob Newton chipped a return catch in the same over Worcestershire were scenting victory.
And if Northamptonshire were sinking at that point, the hosts hit the bottom a couple of overs later. Ben Duckett had already sliced Mitchell McClenaghan to deep point but when Mitchell dismissed both James Middlebrook and Spriegel in the 18th over the game was up. All that was left was for Olly Stone to fall to Jack Shantry as Northants were bowled out 32 shy of their target.
"We assessed the pitch, Colin and myself, and we thought that 150 was about par so we were a shade over that," Worcestershire captain Mitchell said. "We bowled very well and kept them under pressure as it was starting to stick in the pitch a bit.
"We executed our plan to perfection, it's generally been our preference to bat first and it was a good wicket to put a score on the board. We try to go hard in the Powerplay and although we lost a few wickets in the first half of the innings but Ben Cox held us together."
On the flip side, Mitchell's opposite number Coetzer was pretty deflated knowing that his side are really struggling to remain afloat. "There's quite a bit of disappointment around although we've still got a very slim chance," he said.
"They won the game, they had two guys who nullified the spin by switch-hitting and that makes you start thinking about your other options. I thought 135 or 140 was about right but it was down to them as they played really well."