Blast Report: Bears v Steelbacks
Birmingham Bears have qualified for the quarter-finals of the Vitality Blast after closing their group campaign with a 14-run victory over Northamptonshire Steelbacks.
Qualification to the knock-out rounds was confirmed after Worcestershire Rapids failed to defeat Leicestershire Foxes at Grace Road in the evening’s fixture, meaning the Bears finished fourth in the North Group and will now face Kent in the last eight on Friday 27 August, 7pm.
The Bears’ total of 191 for five owed much to a dazzling debut from Chris Benjamin. The 22-year-old struck an unbeaten 60 (34 balls, seven fours, two sixes) to lead a recovery from 68 for four.
The Steelbacks, qualification hopes long extinct, mustered 177 for eight in reply. They threatened briefly through Ricardo Vasconcelos (39, 33 balls) and Josh Cobb (35, 18 balls) and Rob Keogh bashed an unbeaten 55 (33 balls) when the cause was lost, but the chase fell away in the face of pressure built by superb spin bowling – 4-0-20-2 – from Jake Lintott.
After choosing to bat, the Bears received a brisk start from Adam Hose. The opener was injured embarking on a quick single on five, resumed with a runner and struck 37 (28 balls) before skying Graeme White to long on.
Three wickets fell in seven balls as Tom Taylor’s excellent throw punished Kyle Mayers for hesitating at the start of a second run and Freddie Heldreich trapped Sam Hain lbw.
That was 68 for four but Benjamin, having already had a chance to acclimatise himself as a runner for Hose, started audaciously by reverse-sweeping his first ball for four. That launched a stand off 84 in 52 balls with skipper Will Rhodes (32, 25 balls), the debutant racing to a 27-ball half-century.
Fourteen balls remained when Rhodes lifted Mohammad Nabi to deep mid-wicket. Those 14 balls produced 39 runs as Carlos Brathwaite celebrated his 33rd birthday with three sixes in a thunderous ten-ball 27.
After the Steelbacks lost Ben Curran, lbw to Yates, to the seventh ball, Vasconcelos and Cobb thrashed 65 in 34 balls before Cobb was brilliantly caught by Rhodes at mid on off Craig Miles.
Seven runs from Lintott’s first two overs cranked up the pressure which told when Vasconcelos top-edged Rhodes to short third man. Lintott removed Taylor and White with successive balls and the Steelbacks’ Blast campaign was laid to rest while the Bears’ attention turned to Leicester…