Report: Northamptonshire Steelbacks v Bears, Vitality Blast
Birmingham Bears took a big stride towards qualification for the Vitality Blast quarter finals with a thrilling six-wicket win over Northants Steelbacks at Northampton.
The Steelbacks, having chosen to take first use of excellent batting conditions, totalled a hefty 211 for six thanks to Saif Zaib (74 from 32 balls) and Chris Lynn (59 from 43). Some serious flak flew and the Bears didn’t help themselves with dropped catches, including Zaib on 12, and fallible groundfielding.
A measure of control was imposed by Olly Stone (one for 33) and Jake Lintott (two for 39), however, and their skills proved crucial as the Bears raced to 213 for four with seven balls to spare.
From an uneasy 44 for three, the charge was set in motion by Alex Davies. with a ferocious 42 from 18 balls and then finished off in grand fashion with an unbeaten stand of 100 in 54 balls by Adam Hose (63, 44) and Chris Benjamin (58, 31).
On a belting batting track, in hot sunshine, bowlers had their work cut out and the Steelbacks in-form top order made hay. After Ben Curran was bowled by a slower ball from Carlos Brathwaite, Aussie star Lynn and Curran took the score to 128 for one for 13 overs.
Lintott removed Lynn via a catch by Hain at short third man but Zaib hit cleanly to threaten to take his side towards 250. The Buckinghamshire product struck three sixes and ten fours before being well caught in the deep by Craig Miles off Lintott.
In reply, the Bears had to go for broke from the start and suffered early damage from the excellent Ben Sanderson. Paul Stirling clouted 17 from six balls but then edged behind and Sanderson then bowled Rob Yates. When Sam Hain fell lbw to Tom Taylor it was 44 for three after 25 balls.
Davies put the Bears back in the game in spectacular style with three sixes and four fours and, after he was bowled by Freddie Heldreich, Hose and Benjamin continued the comeback with a cornucopia of controlled aggression.
Hose thundered to his half-century, from 40 balls, with a glorious six over long off off Taylor in an over which went for 18 and, for the first time, put the Bears in the box seat, needing 24 from three overs. It was Benjamin who struck with winning boundary, at the same time raising a superb century partnership which offered more strength to the claim that the Bears possess the most power-packed middle order in the Blast.