Blast 19 Report: Bears @ Steelbacks

Rob Keogh’s career-best 59 helped the Steelbacks to a first win in this season’s Vitality Blast as they beat Birmingham Bears by 21 runs in front of over 4,500 on a balmy night at Wantage Road.

Keogh’s was a well-paced innings and just his first T20 half-century, neatly in his 50th match. He shared an important partnership of 84 for the fourth-wicket with Alex Wakely, who took their side the final over of the Powerplay to 120 for 4 in the 17th over.

He steered Ashton Agar’s left-arm spin past short-third man before cutting another boundary past extra-cover. He stepped down the wicket to lift the same bowler down the ground onto the roof of the Spencer Pavilion for the evening’s first six – and just the fourth in his T20 career – and a nudged two through midwicket brought him fifty in 42 balls. He struck a sixth four in the final over, straight driving Jeetan Patel.

Wakely, after two failures, twice reverse-swept Patel past short-third man, cut Agar through the covers and also pulled the Bear’s captain between two fielders in the deep on the leg-side but miscued a pull in Edwards’ final over to be caught and bowled for 38.

Initially, Northants’ batting followed a familiar pattern with early wickets going down. Ben Curran, playing his first T20 of the season, skied an attempted drive against Fidel Edwards to cover point before Henry Brookes took two wickets from the Wilson End. A nasty lifter took an edge from Josh Cobb through to Michael Burgess before Adam Rossington slapped to extra-cover to fall for 13 in the sixth over.

But Keogh and Wakely got Northants stuck into the innings and gave the hitters a chance in the final overs. Dwaine Pretorius sliced a cut over backward point but hoisted James Wainman, on his Bears T20 debut, to deep midwicket where Sam Hain judged a tremendous catch. Matt Coles arrived and swing his second ball over deep midwicket for six before brutally slamming Patel over his head for four in the final over.

Rain arrived to extend the interval and the revised chase began in perfect fashion for the home side as Ed Pollock slapped the first ball of the reply, from Ben Sanderson, straight to cover. But Michael Burgess gave the chase a bright start with 18 in 13 balls, pulling Coles for a flat six wide of deep square and driving Faheem Ashraf fiercely past point for four. But trying to utilise the last over of the Powerplay, skied a pull against Nathan Buck and was held at extra-cover.

Sam Hain, following his 85 in 61 balls against Derbyshire, again looked in good touch and pulled and cut Ashraf for boundaries before late-cutting Coles past short-third man. 

Adam Hose skipped down to lift Graeme White into the sight-screen but a tight over from Buck left 75 needed from 48 balls. Hain responded by lifting Sanderson over mid-off for four before pulling White into the hands of deep midwicket.

Suddenly the required rate was into double figures and Agar lifted Buck over long-on and pulled Ashraf for four but swung past the next delivery and was bowled for 17. 

36 were required from the final three overs and Ashraf sent down a superb over for just four runs and yorked Hose for 31, leaving 32 from 12. Sanderson cleaned up Will Rhodes in the penultimate over before Pretorius defended 26 from the final six deliveries with ease.

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