Birmingham Bears booked their place in the NatWest T20 Blast quarter-finals with a thrilling two-wicket victory over Lancashire Lightning at Emirates Old Trafford in their final group game.
Put in, the Lightning totalled 163 for four as Jos Buttler struck 58 to follow his 80 in the clash between the teams at Edgbaston last month. Josh Poysden and Olly Stone shared the bowling honours with two wickets apiece.
Ed Pollock then launched the chase in spectacular fashion by smashing 49 from 24 balls. That was the perfect springboard which Dominic Sibley (53, 38 balls) and Adam Hose (49, 35 balls) exploited skilfully before a drastic late collapse left ninth-wicket pair Jeetan Patel and Stone needing to find four runs from the final over. Stone settled the matter with a towering straight six with three balls to spare.
The Lightning started strongly with an opening stand of 51 in 39 balls between Jordan Clark and Liam Livingstone (39, 28 balls) before both fell in the space of four balls from Poysden. The leg-spinner had Clark pouched by Jeetan Patel at deep square leg then trapped the dangerous Livingstone lbw with a beautifully-flighted delivery.
Poysden bowled an excellent spell of 4-0-28-2 and fellow spinner Dom Sibley bowled his four overs for just 29 but Buttler (58, 42 balls) and Dane Vilas (30, 27 balls) built another good partnership – 86 in ten overs – before Stone uprooted Vilas’s middle-stump.
Buttler was caught by Colin de Grandhomme at long on off Stone’s final ball as the former Northants paceman finished with two for 35.
Pollock and Sibley then launched the Bears reply with an opening stand of 61 in 33 balls with Pollock smacking five fours and four sixes, two off successive balls from Ryan MacLaren before the 22-year-old lifted the next ball to point.
Sibley and Hose kept the tempo high with some blistering shots interspersed with superb running between the wickets. They added 84 in 59 balls before Hose was stumped on the brink of a brilliant half-century.
Sibley advanced to his second successive T20 half-century before his departure sparked that collapse. Just six runs were needed from the last two overs and, amid rising tension, nine of the 12 balls were needed before Stone sealed victory with the tenth six of the innings.