“NORTHANTS v Yorkshire – a huge game for all concerned,” screamed the public address announcer at Wantage Road.
He had evidently not consulted the league table, which showed Yorkshire second-bottom and all but mathematically eliminated from the T20 Blast.
It was all part of one of the most depressing – and relentlessly deafening – pre-match build-ups you could possibly witness.
For the most part, the announcer was inaudible above music so loud it was only just short of rock concert volume, with the din blaring out non-stop for fully two-and-a-half hours before start of play.
As every Yorkshire supporter who suffered that ridiculously overblown pre-match hype knew only too well, this was not “a huge game” for Yorkshire at all.
On the contrary, it was a dead rubber in everything but name and, courtesy of a six-wicket defeat to a side very much in contention to reach the last eight, it was officially so come evening’s end.
Yorkshire can no longer qualify ahead of their final group game against Birmingham at Headingley on Friday, having lost eight of their 13 fixtures to date.
They will be mighty glad to see the back of this competition so they can get back to the main business of winning the County Championship, which is theirs to lose.
In front of a capacity crowd of 6,000 on a sunlit evening, which reflected Northamptonshire’s good form in the competition, Yorkshire took the chance to ring a few changes.
Andrew Gale and Tim Bresnan were rested ahead of tomorrow’s Championship game against Worcestershire at Scarborough, with Jonny Bairstow taking over the captaincy, and 21-year-old pace bowler Ben Coad and 19-year-old all-rounder Matthew Waite handed their T20 debuts, with Waite playing his maiden first team game of any description.
After being asked to bat, Yorkshire made a poor start when they lost Will Rhodes to the fourth ball.
The left-hander made room to try to hit David Willey through the offside but succeeded only in picking out Ben Duckett at cover.
Willey, the 25-year-old left-arm pace bowler, began with a wicket maiden from the Pavilion End and Yorkshire lost their second wicket in his second over, the third of the innings, when Jack Leaning was beaten by a direct hit from Josh Cobb at mid-on as he attempted a single.
The hosts missed chances to run-out both of the third-wicket pair of Alex Lees and Bairstow early in their stand, which realised 46 from 44 balls to provide the innings with a much-needed platform.
Bairstow showed his power when launching the left-arm spin of Graeme White for six over long-on, but he fell for 21 when he skied Cobb to Duckett at deep mid-wicket.
Yorkshire slipped to 87-4 in the 14th when Lees was caught and bowled by White for 46, made from 42 balls with two fours and a straight six off Steven Crook, the ex-Lancashire pace bowler.
Glenn Maxwell also hit Crook for a six over mid-wicket but perished to the next delivery when he slapped him straight down the throat of Willey at deep mid-wicket.
It was a poor shot from Maxwell, who had no need to play it, and it left Yorkshire 97-5 in the 15th over.
Liam Plunkett struck a brisk 23 before he was bowled by Azharullah, and Ryan Gibson played some nice strokes before slicing Rory Kleinveldt to point.
Waite finished unbeaten on 14 from seven balls as Yorkshire reached a total that was competitive if hardly conclusive.
As Yorkshire had done, the hosts lost two wickets in the six-over powerplay – albeit for the addition of 22 more runs.
Richard Levi was run-out for 30 from 14 balls after unwisely going on a misfield by Plunkett, who conceded 25 runs from the third over of the reply – a swing that Yorkshire never pulled back.
Josh Cobb went for a golden duck when he was caught at deep cover by Leaning off Coad, which left the home side 40-2 in the fourth over, but a stand of 62 from 46 balls between Willey and Alex Wakely, the Northamptonshire captain, frustrated Yorkshire’s hopes of getting back into the game.
Willey eventually did a Maxwell when he struck a six (off Matthew Fisher) only to fall to the next ball trying to repeat the feat, Waite judging the catch at long-on.
Wakely went on to 46 before he was fourth out at 146, caught by Maxwell at mid-on off Coad, the most successful bowler with 2-24.
Waite did not take a wicket but he bowled four promising overs for 28. None of the young players let anyone down.
Duckett – previously a thorn in Yorkshire’s side in this competition – saw his team over the line with an unbeaten 40 as Northamptonshire prevailed with an over to spare.
As for Yorkshire, they must go back to the drawing board in T20 cricket.