Reigning champions Northants Steelbacks ended Birmingham Bears’ 100 per cent start in the NatWestT20Blast with a thrilling five-wicket win at Edgbaston.
Put in, the Bears totalled 156 for four, considerably fewer than looked likely when they were 103 for one after 12 overs. The fall of Ian Bell (50, 35 balls, five fours, two sixes) sent the innings into decline against an accurate attack led by South African spinner Tabraiz Shamsi (4-0-24-2) and seamer Richard Gleeson (4-0-20-0).
"Birmingham were given a perky start by openers Bell and Sam Hain"
A further blow befell the Bears when a Gleeson delivery rapped Rikki Clarke on the right thumb, forcing him to retire hurt and leaving him unable to open the bowling. In Clarke’s absence, the Steelbacks charged to 40 from three overs as Adam Rossington’s ferocious 20-ball 34 set them on the way. Josh Cobb then took up the cudgels with a well-judged 48 (46 balls, two fours, three sixes) and Rob Keogh (41 not out, 24 balls, six fours) saw them over the line with a boundary off the final ball.
Birmingham were given a perky start by openers Bell and Sam Hain who added 55 in 37 balls. Hain struck five fours in a 21-ball 30 but perished to left-arm spinner Graeme White’s first ball, which he reverse-swept to short third man.
White had just dropped Bell, a difficult chance at point off Gleeson with the batsman on 20, and was made to regret that as Bell reached 50 from 34 balls with two sixes, including one off White. But Bell fell next ball, when he lifted Shamsi to deep mid-wicket, and the Steelbacks slammed on such a brake that the next six overs (13 to 18) brought just 31 runs.
Colin de Grandhomme hoisted Shamsi to deep mid-wicket and it became three wickets for three runs in seven balls when William Porterfield (21, 19 balls) sliced White to point.The Bears’ problems increased when Clarke retired hurt and only a belated assault from Aaron Thomason, who hit two sixes in the last over from Rory Kleinveldt, to lift the total over 150.
In Clarke’s absence, De Grandhomme opened the bowling and Rossington took to the Kiwi with a vengeance, smashing 24 (three fours and two sixes) from his second over. Jeetan Patel gave the Bears hope by removing Ben Duckett, caught at mid off, and Rossington, lbw, and Alex Wakely chipped Olly Hannon-Dalby to mid-off, but Cobb and Rob Keogh added 43 from 32 balls. Cobb holed out with the job almost done and just five runs were needed from the last over, from Elliott.
The Bears fought hard and Steven Crook fell to a fine catch by Porterfield at long on from the second ball and the scores were level with one ball remaining: Elliott to Keogh, and Keogh found the cover boundary.