Report: Bears v Steelbacks, Vitality Blast
Bears returned to winning ways in the Vitality Blast with a 30-run victory over Northamptonshire Steelbacks in a low-scoring contest at Edgbaston.
Spinners dominated as the Bears, having chosen to bat, were bowled out for 137 in 18.5 overs after slow left-armer Freddie Heldreich took his competition-best four for 27. Heldreich took a wicket in each of his four overs as only Sam Hain (35, 31 balls) and Alex Davies (32, 18) passed 15 for the home side.
The Steelbacks’ reply was then even more emphatically smothered – 107 for nine from 20 overs – by the four-pronged home spin attack. Dan Mousley took three for 14 and Moeen Ali three for 16 before he now leaves to join England’s squad ahead of next week’s Ashes opener.
Davies supplied the Bears with a punchy and, it was to prove, priceless start despite quickly losing two partners. Rob Yates lifted Tom Taylor to deep square leg before Al skied David Willey to mid off.
Davies perished in pursuit of his third six when Saif Zaib took a well-judged catch on the rope in front of the Hollies Stand off Heldreich. That was the spinner’s fourth ball – he struck another big blow with his tenth which Glenn Maxwell, having smashed the previous ball into the South Stand’s third tier, chipped to extra cover.
Heldreich’s 17th sphere inflicted further damage when Mousley missed an attempted pull and fell lbw and when his 19th ousted Chris Benjamin, to another well-judged catch by Zaib at deep mid-wicket, the Bears were 93 for six. And when Hain was bowled, trying to make room to cut Zaib, a moderate total was assured.
The Steelbacks found the going even tougher against the twirlers, notably Mousley who took two crucial wickets for eight in his first two overs. The 21-year-old bowled Chris Lynn and Josh Cobb either side of taking a fine catch in the deep to remove the dangerous Emilio Gay (18, 15 balls) off Maxwell.
Ali then struck twice as Willey edged behind and Lewis McManus heaved to deep mid-wicket where the effervescent and ubiquitous Mousley took the catch. After ten overs, the Steelbacks had stuttered to 50 for five with 88 needed from the last ten.
Scoring at that rate in such conditions was out of the question. Zaib and Taylor nurdled 29 from 30 balls but Mousley returned to the attack to have Taylor caught at extra cover and Danny Briggs hit James Sales’ middle stump to collect his 249th T20 wicket.
A quest for 63 from the last five overs was hopeless. Zaib (25, 29 balls) was bowled behind his legs sweeping at Ali and the Steelbacks subsided swiftly under the shimmering mosaic of pinks, oranges and ochres in the dazzling iridescence of a Birmingham sunset.
Mousley said: “To defend 137 at Edgbaston which is notoriously a very flat wicket, we are absolutely ecstatic with. We adapted quickly. We knew after the first innings it was going to spin so it was just a question of putting that into practice and taking a little bit of pace off the ball. That’s what we spoke about and that’s what we did, and to get two points after being 137 all out, we are absolutely chuffed.
“You can’t fault the effort out there in the field tonight. The effort has been there 100 per cent all through the competition but tonight to fight and scrap to win a game we probably had no right to win, that’s pretty special.
“We knew that every run would be needed so we ran really hard and even though the luck didn’t go our way at times, we posted a score we felt we could defend. I was pleased with the way I bowled. Eighteen months ago I was probably classed as a part-time spinner but now I’m getting four overs a game and being backed by Davo and Mo has been brilliant.”
£15 tickets for home quarter-final
Bears have secured a home Vitality Blast quarter-final which will be on Thursday 6 July, with adult tickets only £15.
Tickets ware available online at tickets.edgbaston.com or on the day via the Ticket Office. Members and Season Pass holders can attend for free by scanning their card at the gate.