Wessels the glue in Notts fine run
Nottinghamshire 174 for 6 (Wessels 64, Crook 3-19) beat Northamptonshire 152 for 7 (Coetzer 67) by 22 runs
After a faltering start to the campaign, during which they lost three of their opening five T20 Blast games, Nottinghamshire have since measured their charge to perfection. Their unbeaten run in the competition now stretches back to early June and the Trent Bridge members can look forward to a fifth straight quarter-final.
The red ink has yet to fully dry on the standings but a 22-run win at Wantage Road confirms Notts' progression and barring an improbable swing in net run-rate, they can expect to add to already unprecedented attendance figures with a home tie.
If truth be told, few of the Nottinghamshire supporters that have streamed through the turnstiles would have touted Riki Wessels to provide the glue that has held the star-studded side together. But the manner in which their campaign has been built upon collective toil will give them hope they can crack the quarter-final whip after falling short three years on the bounce.
Wessel's third half-century of the season underpinned a stop-start innings that provided the foundation for a win that had more than an element of supremacy to it. Despite losing four wickets in just eleven balls after Wessel's departed for 64, they always had too much for the defending champions who are on their last legs, disparagingly clutching to the crown they won last year for as long as possible.
Steven Crook took career-best figures of 3 for 19 as he and Azharullah combined to apply the brakes on Nottinghamshire's assault but the damage that Wessels - playing against his former employers - had, along with Samit Patel in putting on a stand worth 102 for the third wicket, already inflicted proved irreparable.
Crook has been one of the few Northants player to go anywhere near reaching the level of performance they achieved last year but the lack of support he's received has rendered his efforts largely in vain. A typically quickfire cameo, which included five boundaries, followed an authoritative display with the ball but, along with captain Kyle Coetzer who scored a masterly fifty of his own, it was a lone hand.
Although it would be harsh to pinpoint the struggles of David Willey, his form has characterised Northants' shortcomings. True, he has been hindered by a back complaint but he has taken just four wickets and looked a shadow of the bowler that inspired his side to glory 12 months ago.
Wessels could well be this year's luminary. After managing to accumulate for the first 14 deliveries of his innings, he quickly clicked into gear and found his range, forcing those in the stands to duck for cover. What makes him such an impressive batsmen is his ability to combine conventional shots with the brawn now associated with the shorter-format. In clubbing David Willey for three successive boundaries in the 15th over, he became just the sixth Notts batsmen to reach 1000 Twenty20 career runs.
He'll have the opportunity to add to that tally in the last eight but Nottinghamshire will be hoping their campaign extends to Edgbaston. On recent evidence, they would be a good bet to go all the way.