Birmingham Bears kept their Vitality Blast qualification hopes alive with a 17-run victory over Northants Steelbacks at Northampton.
After choosing to bat, the Bears were indebted to Chris Woakes who thrashed an unbeaten 57 from 23 balls (six fours, four sixes) – his second T20 half-century and first for the Bears.
Woakes injected late impetus to an innings which needed it, with the score on 107 for four from 14 overs before 80 runs arriving from the last six.
The Steelbacks’ replied with 170 for seven after Jeetan Patel produced the standout bowling of the match with a superb 4-0-17-2. Grant Elliott added three for 34 as the home side fell 17 short despite Josh Cobb’s maiden T20 century – a beefy 103 (62 balls, eight fours, six sixes).
The Bears lost Ed Pollock, caught at mid off, in the first over and when Adam Hose nicked an attempted scoop off Nathan Buck it was 25 for two after four. Ian Bell (43, 36 balls, five fours) and Sam Hain (31, 25 balls, two fours, one six) rebuilt with a stand of 64 from 48 balls before both perished in the space of three balls. Hain lifted Seekkuge Prasanna to long on and then Bell drove Buck to extra cover.
Colin de Grandhomme and Woakes added 30 from 18 balls before the former fell lbw to Prasanna. Woakes withstood taking a full-blooded drive from De Grandhomme on the thigh at the non-striker’s end to launch a vivid counter-attack.
He smote Richard Gleeson for 14 from three balls in a sixth wicket stand of 46 in 20 balls with Elliott (19, 13 balls) and raced to a 22-ball half-century with two sixes in the final over.
The Steelbacks’ reply suffered an early blow when an Olly Stone yorker uprooted Ben Duckett’s middle-stump. Elliot then took out two big threats as Ricardo Vasconcelos fell to a brilliant catch by Aaron Thomason at deep extra cover and Alex Wakely pulled straight to Hose at deep square leg.
Northants reached the halfway stage needing 108 and, while Cobb posted a punchy 50 from 35 balls, two of his partners were dislodged by Patel. Charlie Thurston chopped to short third man and then Steven Crook pulled to deep mid-wicket in the 14th over from which the spinner conceded just two runs.
When Prasanna skied Elliott into the gloves of Tim Ambrose, the Steelbacks needed 65 from four overs. Cobb continued to blaze away but a tight over from Stone against his former club ensured the home side had too much to do – and the Bears will face Notts Outlaws at Edgbaston on Thursday (7pm) still in the qualification race.