Saturday 17 August 2013 

Willey Leads Steelbacks To Fairytale Win

David Willey leads the Northants victory celebrations.
 
Willey hits out on his way to a brutal half-century.
 
Alex Wakely's unbeaten fifty was an effective follow-up to Willey's effort.
© Action Imags / Andrew Boyers Livepic *3
 

Northamptonshire 194-2 (Willey 60) beat
Surrey 92 (Willey 4-9) by 102 runs (D/L)
Friends Life t20 Final

It is the stuff that fairytales are made of. An unfancied team who haven’t tasted success in a generation were crowned winners of the 2013 Friends Life t20 by beating a much richer and much bigger club. And not only that, but two home-grown players in David Willey and captain Alex Wakely played starring roles.

That was the story as Northamptonshire smashed Surrey by 102 runs in a final that was affected by rain early on but was unaffected thereafter. Willey shone with both bat and ball to be named man of the match and finished the game with a hat-trick by dismissing Zafar Ansari, Jon Lewis and Chris Tremlett in the 14th over.

Earlier, he had set up the Steelbacks victory with the quickest half-century of the competition. Sent into replace the injured Kyle Coetzer at the top of the order, he raced to 50 off just 19 balls either side of a rain-break to beat Hamish Rutherford’s 21-ball effort .

Willey was quick to pay tribute to the role that Cameron White (54 not out off 39 balls) played in talking him through his innings when interviewed afterwards, emphasising just what a good match the previously Kolpak-heavy Northamptonshire have at last found between their foreign-born and English-born players.

Willey made the most of the poor length, usually too full, bowled by the Surrey seamers to launch a dazzling array of boundaries - six fours and four sixes - and simply appeared to be enjoying himself. He took 20 off one over from Jade Dernbach shortly after the break for rain and explained afterwards that some verbals from the England bowler had got him going.

Willey and White added 50 in 29 balls for the second-wicket before Willey went for one shot too many and was caught by Gary Wilson in the covers. A word about Wilson: he somehow charmed the crowd in the Eric Hollies stand and was accompanied by cheers in everything that he did for the rest of the evening; something that summed up the joyful nature of the day in spite of the damp conditions.

Back to the cricket, and following Willey’s dismissal, there was no let-up for the Surrey bowlers as Alex Wakely joined White and raced to 50 off just 25 balls. His innings was perhaps less ostentatious than Willey’s but scarcely less effective; both made Cameron White’s effort of 54 off 39 balls look relatively pedestrian when it blatantly wasn’t. White was a little scratchy in his innings at first, but he has been the rock around which the rest of the Northants batting line-up can play throughout this tournament and has played an equally crucial role as Wakely’s chief advisor on the field.

The three half-centuries helped Northants post the highest total in the a T20 final off 194 for two, despite their innings being shortened to 18 overs. Jade Dernbach endured a chastening day, conceding 55 runs from his four overs, while Azhar Mahmood went from hero (2-9 in the semi-final) to zero by returning figures of one for 53 from his four overs.

Surrey had to have a good start if they were to seriously challenge their target of 195, but they didn’t. Willey’s fairytale grew as he bowled Jason Roy for 13 to give his side their first wicket. He then effected a direct-hit run-out from the boundary - you know it’s your day when things like that happen.

Glenn Maxwell briefly threatened to ruin the script, but his cameo of 29 off 17 balls was ended by Northants’ other unlikely star of the season, Steven Crook, and realistically Surrey’s challenge, with the required run rate at around 12, was over.

The rest of the innings consisted of a steady stream of wickets before becoming a flood as Willey took the last three to complete the Hollywood-style fairytale. A mention must go to team coach David Ripley, who is Northamptonshire through and through, and only took over the first-teal role midway through last season. Since then, a previously struggling team has prospered and is now in with a realistic shout of winning all three county competitions.

© Cricket World 2013