After a pulsating contest that swayed back and forth like a drunk staggering home on a Saturday night, Northants Steelbacks beat the Birmingham Bears by three wickets to take their place in the quarter finals of the T20 Blast. A stand of 53 off just 20 balls between Tom Taylor and Graeme White saw them home.
The game was a great advert for T20 cricket and for the hybrid pitch that produced such an exciting contest between bat and ball.
When the Bears recovered from the depths of 20-4 to reach 191-5 thanks to a stunning hundred from Adam Hose and a maiden T20 50 from Dan Mousley, it looked as though Northants had a mountain to climb. The ascent looked all the greater when they slumped to 71-6 in the tenth over. But then came that stand between White and Taylor.
When Hose dropped White off Jeetan Patel in the 17th over, he went from hero to zero; and Patel, possibly the Bears’ finest ever overseas player, saw his last two balls for the team he has served so well go for six.
It looked as though the whole match had been decided as early as the third and fourth overs of the Bears’ innings. First, Tom Taylor responded to being swung over mid wicket for six by Rob Yates by inducing a skied shot that had Yates well caught by Ben Sanderson, running back from mid on.
Then he bowled Bears’ skipper Will Rhodes with a good length delivery. Sanderson struck what seemed at the time the deciding blow by trapping Sam Hain lbw. He then had Mike Burgess caught by Richard Levi low down at slip (yes, that fielding position occasionally seen in T20 games). At 20-4, the Bears seemed down and out.
Adam Hose and Dan Mousley revived the Bears’ innings. Hose rapidly put behind him a so far indifferent T20 season. He hit Sanderson, Josh Cobb and Graeme White for early sixes. 19 year old Dan Mousley soon joined in, reverse sweeping Cobb for four and hitting Nathan Buck over mid off for another boundary.
The fifty partnership came up in the tenth over. In the second half of the innings, possibly only Lewis Hamilton could have accelerated faster. The 100 stand came up after 66 balls and Hose struck Graeme White for two massive sixes to mid wicket to bring up the 150.
In the 17th over, Hose reached his hundred and Mousley his fifty, each for the first time. The big hits and the milestones continued until, off the last ball of the innings, Hose was run out. His 119 came off just 64 balls, with nine fours and seven sixes. Mousley, the perfect foil, finished with 58 off 44 balls, with five fours and a six.
Northants suffered an early setback when the dangerous Richard Levi skied Tim Bresnam to long leg in the first over. Paul Stirling punished Liam Norwell for a loose first over but Josh Cobb hit a catch to Mousley at short extra cover off Jake Lintott and Adam Rossington was caught by Lintott at mid on off Bresnan.
28-3 became 48-4 when Luke Procter hit Bresnan to Lintott at mid on. Paul Stirling looked to be Northants’ big hope but he edged Liam Norwell down the leg side to be brilliantly caught by Mike Burgess.
Zaib and Keogh started the Northants revival but when they both fell to reduce Northants to 140-7 in the sixteenth over, it looked to be all over.
Cue that stand between Taylor (50 off 27 balls, with seven fours and two sixes) and White (37 off 12 balls, two fours and four sixes). To be sure, the Bears’ bowling fell apart, Liam Norwell conceding 53 runs off four overs. And there was that dropped catch. But overall, there is no doubt that Northants deserved their victory.