Northants hit back to win after Leach hat-trick
Northamptonshire 126 (Shantry 4-29, Leach 4-30) beat Worcestershire 105 (Azharullah 4-22) by 21 runs
Worcestershire Rapids allrounder Joe Leach took a hat-trick from the first three balls of the match but finished on the losing side as Northamptonshire Steelbacks edged home by 21 runs in the Royal London Cup at New Road.
In a gripping, low-scoring game on an unpredictable pitch, Northamptonshire reached a creditable 126 - despite having been 19 for 6 - and carried on their recovery with Azharullah taking 4 for 22 as the home side were dismissed for 105 in the 32nd over.
Leach's feat is not unique in modern times. In 2003 Sri Lanka's Chaminda Vaas - who played county cricket for both Northamptonshire and Worcestershire - began a World Cup match with three wickets in three balls against Bangladesh in Pietermaritzburg.
Softened up by the opening salvo, Northamptonshire staggered into further trouble, losing three wickets to Jack Shantry before the lower order - starting with Rory Kleinveldt's 33 from 39 balls - kept them in the contest.
Leach's first two wickets came from new-ball seam movement as Richard Levi and Rob Keogh edged to wicketkeeper Ben Cox and Ben Duckett was third out when steering a shorter delivery to Shantry at gully.
The 24-year-old Leach came back to end Josh Cobb's stubborn resistance, the opener edging to slip after making 31 out of 99 by the 27th over. Leach and Shantry both returned personal-best figures in one-day competitions.
The parade of ducks at the top of the Northants order was followed by another unusual event as play was held up for a few minutes when a low-flying swan made at least half-a-dozen circuits of the playing area. The delay was of no help to the Steelbacks. Their heads still in a daze, another procession followed with three wickets in 11 balls for Shantry.
With the pitch providing some disconcerting bounce, the game could easily have been over by lunch but for a let-off for Kleinveldt when he had made only 8. If Tom Fell had held a low chance at third slip off Shantry, Northants would have been 27 for 7.
Instead the South Africa international clouted seven fours in a partnership of 50 in 12.2 overs with Cobb. A top edge looping to mid-on did for Kleinveldt in Ed Barnard's first over but Graeme White and Olly Stone scrambled what proved to be decisive runs.
Although Worcestershire avoided a calamitous start, wickets soon began to fall and at 48 for 6 in the 22nd over, when Daryl Mitchell was caught on the leg-side off Azharullah for 18, the Rapids were in as much trouble as the Steelbacks had been.
Leach then took centre stage again, sparking a spirited comeback by making 21 with five fours until top-edging to third man, but wickets continued to tumble. The innings and a brave effort by Cox ended when the wicketkeeper skied Kleinveldt to deep cover after making 36, the top score of the day.