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Duckett stars as Northants reach final

Northamptonshire 161 for 8 (Duckett 84, Wakely 53, Russell 3-20) beat Nottinghamshire 153 for 9 (Russell 39, Read 30, Crook 3-28) by eight runs
Scorecard

A career-best T20 score from Ben Duckett powered Northants into the NatWest Blast T20 final for the third time in four years.

Despite their well-documented financial troubles and the loss of Seekkuge Prasanna to international duty and Richard Gleeson to injury, Northants overcame a Nottinghamshire side that came into finals day having won their last nine T20 matches and containing nine international players and to win by eight runs.

Northants looked unlikely victors when, 14 balls into the game, they had subsided to 15 for 3. And, had either of two inside edges from Duckett's bat hit the stumps rather than skidded to the fine leg boundary, it is quite possible this match could have ended as a contest almost before it had begun.

But in partnership with captain Alex Wakely, Duckett helped add 132 in 82 balls showed once again why he is one of the highest-rated young batsmen in county cricket.

Demonstrating an outrageous range of scoops, reverse pulls and drives, Duckett thrashed 84 from 47 balls - only two short of the record individual score on Finals Day - to take Northants to a competitive total.

While some batsman might have been forgiven for consolidating after such a poor start, Duckett reasoned there was little sense in attempting to eke out a modest total on what looks to be an excellent surface and instead counter-attacked from the start.

Stuart Broad was laced through mid-off and nudged off his hips for boundaries before Samit Patel was reverse-pulled for six. At one stage he took three boundaries in succession off Steven Mullaney - a reverse sweep, a scoop and a drive - while one Patel over was punished for 20, including a six crunched over long-on.

Duckett's success does raise questions, though. Would he have won an opportunity to play in an eight-team city-based competition? As a 21-year-old developing at one of the smaller counties, would he have been given an opportunity ahead of more experienced players at more fashionable counties?

He is the latest in an impressive array of talent to emerge from Northants in recent years. He recently scored 650 List A runs in the space of two weeks, including a double-century against Sri Lanka A, and was probably unfortunate to miss out on a place in the England ODI squad.

Whether the club can keep him remains unclear. He is not out of contract but, like David Willey and Olly Stone before him, he is sure to attract interest from counties with deeper pockets.

The value of the Wakley-Duckett partnership was highlighted once Duckett was dismissed, attempting to slog-sweep. Northants only managed one boundary in the last 25 balls of their innings, with nobody except Duckett and Wakely making more than 7.

Andre Russell, despite struggling with a sore knee that forced him off the pitch at one stage, came to bowl his final over and claimed two wickets - Rory Kleinveldt and Steven Crook - to catches on the midwicket boundary and conceded just three runs in the process.

Nottinghamshire were soon 15 for 3 in reply. After Michael Lumb edged to third man and Alex Hales was bowled by one that nipped back, Dan Christian was hurried by a short ball and top-edged to fine leg.

But Russell plundered 20 - three fours, two of which were delicately played through or over point and one six, which was thrashed over midwicket - from one Azharullah over to put his side back on track. While Riki Wessels was caught on the point boundary, attempting to clear the field with a reverse sweep, Patel helped Russell add 45 in just 25 balls.

But an outstanding piece of athleticism on the midwicket boundary - Rob Keogh throwing himself full length to cling on to an outstanding catch - ended Russell's innings and, with Patel falling to a sharp return catch and Mullaney pulling to midwicket, it seemed Nottinghamshire would fall well short.

Northants put down three chances - none of them easy - in seven balls, though, to allow Notts back into the game. Chris Read, the fortune batsman on two occasions, thrashed a quick 30 to leave Northants - struggling to bowl their overs within the permitted time and risking a six-run penalty as a result - a little rattled. But when Read was caught at long-on, Notts' chances disappeared with him and left Northants into the final once more.

"We saved our worst performance of the season for the semi-final," Notts captain Dan Christian admitted.