Report: Steelbacks v Bears, Vitality Blast
Rob Yates hit his highest T20 score as Birmingham Bears posted an imposing 202 for six against Northamptonshire Steelbacks to set up their fourth straight win in this year’s Vitality Blast by 21 runs.
Yates scored 71 off 53 balls (eight fours, one six) and shared a 100-run opening partnership with Alex Davis (46 off 29 balls) a record for the Bears against the Steelbacks.
Freddie Heldreich stemmed the flow of runs by removing Davies and Australian dangerman Glenn Maxwell for 0 in the space of two balls, but while AJ Tye picked up two wickets in the closing overs, Sam Hain blasted 48 off just 27 balls to push the Bears past 200.
Northamptonshire’s chase got off to a flying start with Ricardo Vasconcelos hitting 65 off 39 balls (13 fours) but despite enterprising innings from captain David Willey (33) and Lewis Mcanus (29), wickets fell at regular intervals with Craig Miles returning career best T20 bowling figures of four for 29.
Willey conceded just a single off a tight opening over before Yates and Davies went on the offensive. Davies (five fours, one six) rode his luck amid a flurry of aggressive shots as the Bears reached 55 at the end of the powerplay.
Davies offered a difficult chance on 23 which Tye couldn’t hold onto running back. He then miscued Tom Taylor over the keeper’s head before Taylor himself put down a straightforward chance off Heldreich.
In between those moments of fortune he mixed some classic drives and late cuts with huge shots over the infield, swinging James Sales high over deep square leg for the first six of the innings.
Yates who had capitalised early on with consecutive boundaries off stray legside balls from Taylor, duly reached his half-century off 38 balls. He brought up the Bears’ 100 at the halfway mark by striking Tye for four and then swinging him high over fine leg for an big six.
But Heldreich held his nerve to strike with the first two balls of the eleventh over. First Davies was sharply stumped by McManus before Maxwell was well caught by Tye on the boundary as he aimed a big six down the ground.
Yates was joined by Hain in a stand of 49, the former disdainfully smashing Taylor straight down the ground and smacking him through the covers for consecutive boundaries before meting out similar treatment to Heldreich.
Yates’ innings finally ended when he pulled Willey high to deep midwicket where Cobb took a stunning leaping catch.
The next two wickets both fell to boundary catches by Taylor off Tye removing Dan Mousley, and Chris Benjamin. Ed Barnard fell to a boundary catch off Willey in the penultimate over before Hain struck Tye for four and a six in the final over to take the Bears past 200.
Vasconcelos motored through his innings. He punched dismissively down the ground and cut powerfully as he reached his half-century off 30 balls. He was particularly severe on Mousley, hitting him for three consecutive boundaries in his first over and two in his second.
Such was Vasconcelos’ dominance that Chris Lynn only made 7 out of their opening stand of 41 in 4.2 overs before the Australian was caught off Miles before Josh Cobb also fell cheaply to Mousley.
Vasconcelos looked well set before he sliced one from Miles straight to point with the hosts 81 for three in the tenth over. Saif Zaib played a cameo of 14 but was caught off Miles.
Willey and McManus put on 35 in 3.3 overs before the skipper was caught off Briggs at backward point. McManus picked up the mantle, carving Maxwell away for six and a four before he was caught on the boundary attempting another big shot. When Graeme White became Miles’ fourth victim, the game was almost over.
Miles said: “It’s always a tough place to come here, completely different to Edgbaston. So we knew what we were going to come up against and we had to make sure we were on the money with everything and I think the guys assessed conditions, batted really well and got us up to another 200 score. And then with 200 on the board, it’s always quite a lot of runs in T20. So, we just knew we had to execute our plans, take some wickets early, which we did in the powerplay and then pretty much sealed the deal from that.
“To have a great power play and then get 200, it’s almost the perfect innings and those guys I thought they were very watchful in the first few overs and then they progressed nicely
“It’s a fast-scoring ground, I think the par winning score is 190, so we knew we had to get somewhere close to that or above.
“I’m pretty happy! I mean comparing it to the game at home the other day, where I didn’t bowl a ball, not required and then dropped a catch, it was kind of chalk and cheese in that respect! That’s what I think Davo’s turned to me for today. A key one in Lynn because obviously he can get going, and to take one every over, it just stems the flow of runs and brings us right into it.”
£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.