Super Steelbacks stun Bears to book quarter-final spot
The Steelbacks produced a stunning all-round display in front of the Sky cameras as they secured their place in the quarter-finals of the NatWest T20 Blast.
Birmingham Bears had no answer to the batting, bowling and fielding of the home side, who marched to 200 for five before dismissing their visitors for just 126.
Adam Rossington was the star of the show with the bat, making a superb 85 from just 51 balls, while Alex Wakely was also in fine form, blasting an unbeaten 53 from 23 deliveries.
And after a strong start in reply, the Bears eventually fell apart, with Rikki Clarke’s dismissal on 105 for three sparking the loss of seven wickets for just seven runs.
Graeme White was to finish with figures of four for 20, which included a brilliant hat-trick, while Seekkuge Prasanna took three for 26 and Rory Kleinveldt three for 14.
It was a stunning display from the Steelbacks who won by 74 runs and move back to the top of the North Group, above Nottinghamshire, furthering their chances of booking a home tie in the last eight.
And David Ripley’s men did it all despite batting first, which had proved problematic in the competition to date.
Wakely lost the toss and saw his side put in to bat but there were no early woes like the ones in the defeat at Durham Jets last Friday, when the Steelbacks lost both Richard Levi and Rossington early on.
Levi, out first ball in the defeat at Durham, got off to a better start this time as he placed Hannon-Dalby’s opening delivery for four.
It was a steady start from the Steelbacks, who were 33 without loss after five overs, and they started to open things up in the sixth over as Rossington got up and running.
Rossington hit four consecutive fours off the bowling of the beleaguered Hannon-Dalby as the Steelbacks finished the powerplay 51 without loss.
And Rossington continued to plough on, smashing Josh Poysden for a six and a four in the same over to reach his 50 from just 28 balls.
The Steelbacks were in superb shape at the halfway stage as they reached 95 without loss with a Rossington six.
Levi and Rossington equalled Northants’ highest opening partnership in T20 - the 103 made by Rob White and Niall O’Brien against Glamorgan back in 2008 - but the South African was to go as Sam Hain took a stunning catch at long-on off the bowling of Jeetan Patel.
And Josh Cobb was to go for a duck soon after as he edged behind off the bowling of Aaron Thomason, who celebrated his first T20 wicket.
But Rossington was relentless in the scorching conditions and he continued to make the Bears sweat as he surpassed his previous best T20 score of 74 with ease.
He eventually departed for 85 as Thomason had him caught by Hain, but the foundations had been laid for a final assault in the remaining six overs.
But Prasanna was to depart having scored just one as he took on Patel and was caught in the deep by Clarke for just one.
Steven Crook came in and smashed a couple of fours off the bowling of Thomason, and Hannon-Dalby’s disappointing day continued as he returned and conceded 13 runs.
Skipper Wakely started to play some attractive shots, with the boundaries still flowing, and the Steelbacks were 175 for four going into the final two overs.
Wakely had taken a stunning 34 runs from an eight-ball spell, putting his team on course to reach the 200-mark.
But Crook was to exit the middle having made a tidy 23 from 16 balls, leaving Wakely and Kleinveldt to face the final over.
Wakely reached the half-century mark from just 20 balls with a four from Hannon-Dalby and the home supporters were on their feet as their side finished with the single that brought up the 200.
That left the Bears with a big task in reply, and they got off to a slow start, taking just 10 runs from the first two overs, bowled by Moin Ashraf and Richard Gleeson.
The third over was more profitable, with 17 runs coming from it, including one boundary that came when Prasanna got fingertips to a Bell flick that was in the air.
Bell was to make the most of that reprieve as he took four consecutive fours from Gleeson’s second over, putting the Bears ahead of the rate at 44 without loss from four overs.
Kleinveldt reacted, with just two coming from his first over, before the Steelbacks turned to the spin of Prasanna to conclude the powerplay.
The Bears ended it 56 without loss, in comparison to the Steelbacks’ earlier 51 without loss, but they were to lose a wicket in the seventh over as Hain was dismissed by Kleinveldt.
And Kleinveldt struck again with the next ball, having Matthew Wade caught by Levi at slip for a golden duck.
White ramped up the pressure with an over that cost just six runs before Kleinveldt attempted to grab a hat-trick, but saw Laurie Evans play it safe.
Bell reached his 50 with a single off White, but the Bears soon lost a third wicket as Prasanna bowled Evans for 13.
Rossington missed the chance to stump Clarke first time round, but made no mistake when a second opportunity presented itself, giving Prasanna a second wicket.
And Bell was to go from the next ball as Rob Keogh took a good catch off the bowling of White after the batsman had looped the ball up in the air.
The Bears were falling apart, and they lost another quick wicket when White trapped Ateeq Javid LBW for two.
Prasanna then got rid of Thomason, who was stumped by Rossington for three, leaving the Bears sliding towards defeat at 111 for seven, needing another 90 runs to win.
Patel was the next to go as Gleeson took a superb catch running in from the boundary, giving White a third wicket.
And the spinner soon had a fourth as he had Keith Barker stumped by Rossington for just one.
And the Bears’ defeat was confirmed when Kleinveldt had Hannon-Dalby caught by Wakely, to the delight of a sizeable home support.
Steelbacks: Levi, Rossington, Cobb, Wakely (c), Crook, Keogh, Prasanna, Kleinveldt, White, Gleeson, Ashraf.
Birmingham Bears: Bell (c), Hain, Wade, Evans, Clarke, Thomason, Javid, Patel, Barker, Poysden, Hannon-Dalby.