Saif Zaib Shines as Northamptonshire Triumphs Over Worcestershire in Vitality Blast 2024 Thriller

Zaib’s unbeaten 44 off 21 balls and his three wickets for 20 runs played a crucial role in the Steelbacks’ narrow six-run victory over Worcestershire Rapids in a nail-biting Vitality Blast match at Wantage Road.

After a five-match loan contract, Shoaib Bashir takes two wickets in his debut appearance.

Saif Zaib Shines as Northamptonshire Triumphs Over Worcestershire in Vitality Blast 2024 Thriller
On his Worcestershire debut, Shoaib Bashir struck. • Getty Images

Worcestershire 163 for 9 (Roderick 39, Zaib 3-20) lost against Northamptonshire 169 for 4 (Zaib 44, Raza 42, Bashir 2-38) by six runs.

Saif Zaib, an all-rounder for Northamptonshire, dazzled in front of the television cameras. He scored 44 runs without losing in just 21 balls and claimed three wickets for 20 runs, helping the Steelbacks defeat the Worcestershire Rapids by a narrow margin of six runs at Wantage Road in a thrilling Vitality Blast match.

Zaib helped his team recover from a minor collapse by smashing six fours and two sixes to drive Steelbacks to 169 for four. He also shared an unbeaten stand of 79 in six overs with Sikandar Raza (42*). In his first of five T20 loan matches for Worcestershire, England off-spinner Shoaib Bashir got two for 38.

In the chase, Gareth Roderick’s incredible cameo nearly turned the game around as the visitors fell to 120 for eight in the sixteenth over. With Worcestershire requiring 11 off the last six balls, Roderick carried the game to the wire, scoring his greatest T20 total of 39 off just 22 balls (1×4, 3×6). However, Raphy Weatherall ended Roderick’s fight with a magnificent last over, surrendering just four runs while maintaining his composure.

Former England all-rounder and Steelbacks skipper David Willey claimed his 300th T20 wicket during the action. Earlier in the second over, Matthew Breetzke (26), hit Bashir for back-to-back sixes, the first one going into the Spencer Pavilion’s board room bar. Soon after, 28-year-old Ricardo Vasconcelos also entered the game and started taking consecutive shots at Adam Finch.

Nathan Smith tied the score with five dot balls, but the Steelbacks ended the powerplay with 47 runs without losing when Vasconcelos found the ropes twice against former teammate Tom Taylor in the sixth over, including a ramp over the keeper’s head.

Also Read: Derbyshire Thrash Notts in Historic T20 Victory as Madsen and Whiteley Shine

Northamptonshire faltered to 63 for three after losing three wickets for 14 runs in 17 balls following that strong start. Vasconcelos was bowled when he mishandled a pull effort against Hayden Walsh. After gaining one wicket to push the Steelbacks above 50, Breetzke (26) attempted to carry on his six-hitting rampage against Bashir. He then picked out deep midwicket. At last, Bashir secured his second wicket by catching Willey at long off.

In a counterattack, Ravi Bopara (18) outran Walsh through cover and then miscued a strike off Finch down the ground, allowing Taylor to make a running catch.

That ignited a boundary-breaking firestorm between Zaib and Raza. Brett D’Oliveira was twice outmuscled by Raza over deep midwicket. Zaib was very effective during the drive, pushing Bashir and Taylor past the cover and hitting Bashir for four.

Smith’s twentieth over turned out to be the most expensive. The Rapids gave up 21 points after Raza edged out one of Zaib’s two sixes. When Worcestershire batted, Zaib got to work quickly, dismissing D’Oliveira with a straight hit to mid-off in the third over.

Willey was bowled when Ed Pollock top-edged him for four and then crunched him over the covers. Ben Sanderson got Matthew Waite behind two balls later, and Worcestershire ended the powerplay at a precarious 39 for three.

Before Brookes was bowled a knuckleball by Bopara and pinned leg before wicket, Adam Hose (24) and Ethan Brookes (24) steadied the ship, putting up 38 in just over four overs.

After striking a four and a six off left-arm spinner Freddie Heldreich’s opening over, Adam Hose looked very dangerous. He then struck a massive six off a free hit from Bopara. When the batter hammered Zaib down the ground, it took a world-class performance from Raza to remove Hose with a spectacular diving boundary catch.

After that, Zaib bowled Taylor off his pads. Later in the over, Heldreich (2-22) bowled Walsh after Smith was caught by a diving Sanderson. Roderick was kept in the dark, though, so that last-minute suspense might continue.

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