YORKSHIRE crashed to their third successive T20 defeat in a performance that raised questions about their ability to reach the knockout stages of a competition for which they were among the pre-season favourites.
The hosts delivered one of their worst T20 displays in recent times as a Northants side they would have expected to beat hammered them by eight wickets with 26 balls to spare in a match reduced by rain to 12 overs-a-side.
After being put into bat, Yorkshire scored 82-7, Australia T20 captain Aaron Finch managing just five runs on his return to the county and fellow countryman Glenn Maxwell again failing to produce as he made only two.
Jack Brooks, Steve Patterson and James Middlebrook were all expensive as Northants inflicted on the hosts a fifth defeat in their last six T20 outings at Headingley.
Under the circumstances, one might have expected Andrew Gale, the Yorkshire captain, to blow a gasket after a setback that followed defeats at Durham and at home to Lancashire.
But although Gale certainly did not have a broad grin on his face after his side slipped to second-bottom of the North Group, just above Derbyshire, he was sanguine as he reflected on a result in which he felt the weather and toss played a sizeable part
“It was just one of those things,” said Gale, whose side return to T20 action against Notts at Headingley on Friday.
“There was a lot of cloud cover, it was a bit damp, it seamed around and I thought there was a lot on the toss.
“I’ve said to the lads, let’s not over-analyse it. We trained really well on Friday, and let’s just put it behind us and move on.
“I was pretty disappointed with the Lancashire game. That was a game we should have won, and we also had opportunities to beat Durham, but weren’t quite good enough with the ball at the end.
“I’m disappointed we’ve lost three games in a row given the opportunities we’ve had to win games, but this one I can kind of accept.
“We’re not panicking – there’s still plenty of games left, everyone’s beating everyone in the table, and you can easily win two or three in a row and then you’re top of the league.
“But we don’t want to leave it too late, I guess that’s the message.”
Gale could certainly do with his overseas players “coming to the party”, as the expression goes, with Yorkshire’s recruitment of Finch and Maxwell raising hopes of success in a competition in which the club have traditionally floundered.
Finch has only just arrived in England after an injury lay-off, but Maxwell is still searching for a significant score after eight innings in all cricket which have brought him a combined tally of 73 runs.
After this match started almost two hours late following prolonged rain, reducing it to an 18 overs-a-side affair and then 14 overs when the action finally began, Finch and Maxwell were both back in the dug-out in the space of 15 deliveries.
Finch, after slashing the first ball of the match from Rory Kleinveldt to the point boundary, was comprehensively fooled by a slower-ball bouncer from Olly Stone which he carted to mid-wicket, before Maxwell – making room to leg – slapped Kleinveldt straight down cover’s throat.
Gale pulled Azharullah to mid-wicket before another rain delay reduced the game to a 12-overs match.
Jonny Bairstow and Gary Ballance added 35 in three-and-a-half overs and seemed to be turning the tide when Yorkshire suddenly lost three wickets in three balls.
Bairstow skied Azharullah to deep-point after making the top score of 23, Ballance pulling the first ball of the next over, bowled by Shahid Afridi, to deep mid-wicket.
Afridi then trapped Jack Leaning lbw on the back foot for a golden duck as the hosts slipped to 55-6.
Afridi, the Pakistan leg-spinner, claimed a third-wicket when he bowled Rich Pyrah – playing his 100th T20 game – as he swung hard to leg.
Tim Bresnan lofted Azharullah for six over long-on, the second maximum of the innings after Ballance got stuck into a full toss from Afridi.
But Yorkshire managed only eight boundaries in total, while 29 of the 72 deliveries they faced were dots.
Bresnan struck an early blow when he had Josh Cobb well caught by Finch at second slip in the second over of Northants’s reply.
But an already hopeless-looking task for Yorkshire became increasingly forlorn when 17 runs came off the third over, bowled by Brooks, and 18 off the fourth, bowled by Patterson.
Northants lost their second wicket on 56 in the sixth over when Richard Levi went lbw to Middlebrook for 35, made from 21 balls with four fours and two sixes.
But it was the last success the hosts enjoyed.
Ben Duckett, who helped his side over the line in the corresponding match last year, did so again with an unbeaten 31 from 13 balls with three fours and two sixes, Afridi ending undefeated on 14.