Report: Birmingham Phoenix Men v Welsh Fire
Birmingham Phoenix made it three wins in a row to go level on points with Trent Rockets at the top of The Hundred table, crushing Welsh Fire by 94 runs, wrist spinner Imran Tahir finishing the visitors off with the first hat-trick of the competition.
Tahir, the Pakistan-born bowler who played his last international cricket for South Africa, finished with five for 25 after dismissing Ahmad Qais, Matt Milnes and David Payne with the last three deliveries as Fire were bowled out for 91.
Opener Will Smeed – at 19 the youngest player in the men’s competition – had finished unbeaten on 65 from 38 balls after Moeen Ali smashed 59 off just 28 as Phoenix posted 184 for five, the highest team total in The Hundred so far.
David Payne took three for 38 from but Ali hit five sixes and Smeed four, Liam Livingstone weighing in with two more in his 31 from 19 balls.
After Fire had won the toss, Phoenix’s Powerplay of 35 for one looked a shade modest, but Ali’s assault changed that.
A disdainful six into The Hollies off Luke Fletcher preceded one straight down the ground off Ahmad, then an extraordinary set of six-wide-wide-six-six-four-wide-one as he took Graeme White apart.
He went past fifty from 23 balls and there was disappointment in the crowd as he came a cropper as Jimmy Neesham mixed things up, dropping the ball straight into the hands of Ian Cockbain at long-on.
Livingstone was caught at deep cover by Glenn Phillips, who had put him down off Ahmad in the previous over on 19. Smeed’s fifty came from 29 balls with his third six.
Fletcher’s final set went for only two singles and Payne dismissed Chris Benjamin and Benny Howell but Matt Milnes undid the fightback by conceding 17 at the death, Sneed finishing with six off a full toss.
Needing 1.85 runs per ball, Fire lost Tom Banton without scoring, pinned by Adam Milne’s yorker. They pushed on to be 41 for one from 25 after Ben Duckett slog-swept Tahir and Cockbain took a couple of boundaries off Pat Brown but then Duckett made a hash of a ramp as Benny Howell took the pace off and was bowled.
Glenn Phillips launched Tahir for a huge blow over deep midwicket but skipper Ali’s decision to keep the wrist spinner on for a full ten paid off handsomely as Phillips skewed him straight to cover – Ali taking the catch – and new man Leus du Plooy also miscued, Tahir himself peddling back to get under it, leaving Fire 55 for four from 40.
Fire had no choice but to swing the bat but very little came off, Cockbain, Neesham and White holing out before Tahir returned to have Ahmad caught at mid-off before trapping Milnes in front and bowling Payne, the exuberant spinner celebrating with virtually a lap of honour.