Jonathan Clare's unbeaten 35 at the death saw Derbyshire Falcons home in a thrilling low-scoring Friends Life t20 opener against Yorkshire Vikings at Headingley.
Karl Krikken's side bowled superbly after winning the toss to restrict the hosts to 119-8 from their 20 overs. Mark Footitt (3-22) was the pick of the bowlers with three wickets, while Albie Morkel picked up impressive figures of 2-9 from his three overs with the new ball.
A brisk 36 from Chesney Hughes gave the Falcons a good start in reply, but six wickets fell in quick succession during the middle overs to put the Vikings on top as the run rate moved above nine an over.
But a superb rear-guard innings from Clare, ably assisted by Tim Groenewald, guided the visitors to their victory target, as together they hit 18 off the last 9 balls to hand Derbyshire the win with just three deliveries to spare.
South Africa international Morkel made an immediate impact on his Derbyshire debut, claiming the key wicket of Yorkshire Captain Andrew Gale with his second delivery.
It wasn’t long before the all-rounder claimed his second when Adam Lyth skied a short delivery to Tom Poynton in the following over, reducing the hosts to 26-2. An excellent piece of fielding from Dan Redfern ensured the Vikings' third wicket fell just three balls later, as the left-handed batsman ran out the in-form Dan Hodgson for 17 with a direct hit at the non-strikers end.
This brought England’s Jonny Bairstow to the middle, but he only lasted 15 balls before he was caught at fine-leg by Groenewald off Footitt for 12, to reduce the hosts to 41-4 after eight overs. Wickets continued to fall at regular intervals, as Adil Rashid (4), Richard Pyrah (7) and Liam Plunkett (2) were all dismissed as the Falcons did an excellent job of restricting the Yorkshire batsman, leaving Jason Gillespie's men struggling on 85-7 after 16 overs.
Former Derbyshire batsman Gary Ballance was the only man to complete a score worthy of note, moving on to 44 from 45 balls, before he became Footitt’s third victim, as the Vikings closed their 20 overs on a below-par 119-8.
The Falcons made a solid start in reply courtesy of Wes Durston and Hughes, with the latter hitting two fours and a six off Jack Brooks, on the way to a 40-run opening stand, before Durston was first man out for 14 - shortly after he had become Derbyshire's all-time leading scorer in Twenty20 cricket.
Derbyshire, however, lost six wickets in the space of just 22 balls, slumping from 56-1 to 70-7, as the match swung firmly in favour of the hosts. Hughes was the third man out to top score with 36 from 33 balls – which featured five fours and a six – as Brooks claimed four wickets for just 21 runs to put the Vikings in the ascendency.
But 35 from 29 balls from Clare ensured that Derbyshire made a winning start to their Twenty20 campaign. The all-rounder hit three fours and a six in his unbeaten knock to guide his team to victory in dramatic fashion. Groenewald chipped in with seven from just five balls, as the pair added 28 runs for the ninth wicket to help the Falcons recover from an unlikely position to claim a two-wicket win in a thrilling finale.
Derbyshire now travel to Grace Road tomorrow to face Leicestershire in their second Friends Life t20 fixture in as many days; 2.40pm start.
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