Vitality Blast 2018
Fri 20 July, 19:00

Edgbaston, Birmingham

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Bears

Bears

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Bears

Northamptonshire Steelbacks

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Blast Report: Bears v Steelbacks

Despite conceding 229 and 220, having bowled first, in their last two games, Birmingham chose to bowl first again – and the Steelbacks piled up 231 for five.

Richard Levi smashed an unbeaten 95 (52 balls, eight fours, six sixes), during which he passed 5,000 T20 runs, and Josh Cobb  struck 61 (35 balls, four fours, for sixes)

But Birmingham replied with 231 for five of their own as Ian Bell smote his first T20 century (131, 62 balls, 11 fours, seven sixes) and Adam Hose hit 64 (39 balls, seven fours, two sixes). They shared a world record T20 third-wicket stand of 171 from 85 balls and kept their side within sight of a spectacular victory.

Ten runs were required from the last over – and nine came to leave honours even.

The Steelbacks started at a gallop with openers Levi and Ben Duckett clobbering 40 from 19 balls. Duckett edged behind at the start of a wicket-maiden from Boyd Rankin but Levi, reprieved on 22 when he was caught at deep square leg off an Aaron Thomason no ball, took with particular relish to former team-mate Olly Stone.

He thrashed 18 from four balls in Stone’s first over and 28, including four sixes, when the paceman returned to bowl the ninth. Cobb pulled Grant Elliott over the Hollies Stand and the second-wicket stand yielded 129 in 70 balls before Cobb lifted Thomason to deep mid-wicket.

Alex Wakely (18, nine balls) and Rory Kleinweldt (28, 10) kept the momentum high and Levi began the last over needing ten to reach his fourth T20 century. He found just five of them but walked off knowing his team were in a mighty position.

They strengthened that position with two early wickets as Ed Pollock lifted Nathan Buck to mid-off and San Hain chipped a slower ball from Kleinweldt to extra cover.

Bell and Hose batted steadily at first then gradually increased the tempo until they were parted by an unfortunate run out. When Bell was coolly caught right on the extra-cover rope by Procter the pendulum swung back the Steelbacks’ way but 21 needed from the last two overs became ten from the last.

Nathan Buck kept his nerve to bowl a good final over and, rather cruelly after delivering such rich entertainment, both teams had to settle for a point which did their qualification hopes little good.

Troughton wants Bears to go back to basics

Jim Troughton wants Birmingham Bears to get back to basics against Northants Steelbacks tomorrow – and show the qualities that powered them to three of the last four Vitality Blast Finals Days.

The Bears will face the Steelbacks (7pm) on the back foot in the North Group after successive home defeats.

With nine of the 14 group games still to go, there is plenty of time to turn their fortunes round again. But Troughton knows that his team must relocate the winning formula quickly if they are to avoid piling pressure on themselves as the group stage deepens.

You can’t leave yourself needing a charge at the back end. You can qualify that way, as we have in the past, but you don’t want to be putting yourselves under that .

Jim Troughton

“You have to be careful about saying there’s a lot of games left because games very quickly go,” he said. “Every game is must-win, in my view.

“I know there are 14 games in the group but you have to get yourself ahead. You can’t leave yourself needing a charge at the back end. You can qualify that way, as we have in the past, but you don’t want to be putting yourselves under that pressure.

“We have an opportunity on Friday to reassess and turn things round. We have had a big chat about the games so far and about the ‘what-ifs.’ What if we lose a wicket? What if we lose Ed Pollock in the first over? What are our challenges as a batting unit and a bowling unit?

“It’s about ticking off these simple basics the way we did so well in the RL50 this season and have done so well in T20 in recent years.”

The Bears will aim to deliver those basics tomorrow against very familiar opposition. They have faced the Steelbacks in T20 more often than any other team – on 28 occasions, having won 16 and lost 12.

Northants are already under serious pressure have endured a torrid start to the current campaign, losing their first four games. But they are a traditionally dangerous T20 side and Troughton knows his side must blow hot again tomorrow.

“It’s about having no doubts, freeing yourself up and winning key moments which we haven’t done in the last two games after doing it very well in two of the previous three,” he said. “We need to nail our bowling skills better – we can’t keep leaving ourselves needing the perfect batting performance.”

Live scorecard

The match live scorecard will appear here once the match is in play.

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