Fading hopes of semi-final spot finally over for Yorkshire

SUSSEX struck a psychological blow ahead of Saturday’s Twenty20 Cup semi-final, beating Yorkshire by three wickets off the very last ball.

In a match reduced by rain to 28 overs per side, a handy warm-up for the big game at Cardiff, Yorkshire totalled 200-8 after being sent into bat.

Andrew Gale scored 43, Joe Root 41, while Middlesbrough-born pace bowler Chris Liddle captured 3-44.

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Set a revised Duckworth-Lewis target of 207, Sussex scraped home as Ed Joyce hit 54 and Chris Nash 53, with Azeem Rafiq returning 3-46.

But the spinner – hitherto impressive – conceded 16 runs off the last over of the match, Amjad Khan and Will Beer steering their side home.

The result ended Yorkshire’s slim hopes of reaching the CB40 semi-finals.

Only the top team from each of the three groups, along with the best second-placed side, goes through to the last four, and Yorkshire are now six points adrift of third-placed Kent.

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Yorkshire have two games to play, against Kent at Canterbury tomorrow and Warwickshire at Scarborough on Monday, and can now only gain a further four points.

Given the gloomy weather and Yorkshire’s position in the tournament, there was a surprisingly good-sized crowd on an overcast day.

Yorkshire had advanced to 14-0 when rain drove the players from the field after just four overs, causing a delay of just under two hours.

When the action resumed, Yorkshire advanced to 33 before Phil Jaques was first out, bowled by Liddle as he backed away trying to hit through the off-side.

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Gale and Root added 75 in 8.2 overs before Gale clipped Luke Wright to Liddle at deep square-leg.

Root was caught and bowled by Nash after facing 26 balls and striking four fours and a six, Gary Ballance falling in the next over when Liddle had him caught behind.

As the overs ticked away, Adam Lyth was caught at deep square-leg, Tim Bresnan lbw to Michael Yardy, Rich Pyrah caught at deep mid-on and Adil Rashid caught behind.

Rafiq fired an unbeaten 13 from five balls, including a hefty six over mid-wicket off Liddle, as Yorkshire eventually set a challenging target.

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Having kept pace for much of their innings, Sussex looked doomed when Yardy’s dismissal for 33 left them 172-6 in the 26th over.

But Khan hit the first two balls of Rafiq’s final over for a straight six and a leg-side four as the visitors held their nerve.

A stunning half-century by Brandan Nash helped the Kent Spitfires to a thrilling five-wicket triumph over the Northamptonshire Steelbacks at Wantage Road to keep their semi-final hopes alive.

The Steelbacks posted 232-9 from their 40 overs as captain Alex Wakely made 74 from 76 balls and youngster Christian Davis blasted 54 off 50 with Matt Coles taking 3-45.

Despite Con de Lange’s 4- 35 the Spitfires reached their target with eight balls to spare as former West Indies international Nash hammered an unbeaten 70 off just 52 deliveries.