Report: Birmingham Phoenix Men v Welsh Fire
Welsh Fire well and truly asserted their authority in the 2023 Men’s Hundred by beating Birmingham Phoenix by six wickets at Edgbaston.
Phoenix chose to bat but mustered only 112 for seven, never shedding the shackles of a focused and fired up Fire attack. David Payne led the way with excellent sets early and late on to finish with two for 11 while strong support was lent by Roelof van der Merwe (two for 16) and Haris Rauf (two for 20).
Phoenix’s limp effort with the bat left them needing something dynamic with the ball but Fire blazed to 116 for four from 85 balls after Steve Eskinazi launched their reply with a ferocious 18-bal 43. They charged to 50 without loss in 21 balls and never looked back – perhaps this is their year!
Phoenix found their early batting progress impeded by the skills of van der Merwe. The left-arm spinner removed Will Smeed, who sent up a skier, and Ben Duckett (25. 20 balls), caught at short fine leg, After Jamie Smith was bowled by an express yorker from Rauf, van der Merwe found himself under a top-edged hoik from Moeen Ali and held on at the third attempt.
Fire bowled with pace and purpose, encapsulated by the rapid, full-length delivery which eluded a crude attempt by Liam Livingstone (28, 20 balls) to land one among the spectators in the Hollies Stand. That usually raucous throng was as subdued as could be and a cadaverous haul of just six runs from the last ten balls, skilfully delivered by Shaheen Shah Afridi and Payne, did nothing to lift the noise levels.
Blaze took their momentum emphatically into the batting as Eskinazi improvised magnificently. He smashed, scooped, skewered and squeezed the ball to all areas on the way to 43 in an opening stand of 67 in 32 balls with Joe Clarke.
A crumb of hope came the home side’s way when Benny Howell removed both openers in five balls. When Luke Wells fell lbw, reverse sweeping Moeen Ali, three wickets had fallen for six runs in ten balls, but Fire’s fine work in the field had earned them the luxury of withstanding a wobble. Tom Abell (23 not out, 18 balls) saw the visitors home at a canter leaving the Hollies Stand as flat as a pancake and a distinguished, sombrero-wearing, first-time visitor to the usually ebullient venue reflecting that the highlight of her day was the nap in the sunshine in the first innings.
Moeen Ali said: “It was too few to defend especially after the start they got with the bat. We probably didn’t bowl that well but these things can happen when you don’t score many – you get a bit anxious and search for wickets. Towards the end we showed a bit of fight which was probably the only positive of the night.
“Another maybe 30 runs would have been nice but they bowled well. Then I thought we bowled poorly. Eskinazi batted well but I don’t think they were good balls that he hit. It was always going to be difficult because we didn’t get enough runs, but we also have to make the opposition hit the boundaries rather than give them up.
“The wicket didn’t really suit our team. They have some world-class bowlers but when we have played really well here the wickets were really good and suited our batting because we like to play shots and we like pace on the ball.
“We are facing must-win games now. We have got to win all four to stand any sort of chance of going through but we know we can do that. I know we have got the players and the team with the experience to do it.”
Tickets going fast for for The Hundred
The Hundred is an unforgettable experience, bringing world-class sporting action and excitement this summer. Tickets are selling fast for all four games at Edgbaston.
Tickets this year remain great value, with prices set at £5 for juniors aged 6-15, free for children five and under, and adults starting from £18.