It was a battle for a place at the table’s summit at Trent Bridge between the two Midlands sides, with only net run rate separating them. However, whereas Trent Rockets have grown into the competition, Birmingham Phoenix are hitting a rich vein of form just at the right time, and even without the services of Moeen Ali, look like a dangerous side.
Phoenix won by 16 runs and will be confident of qualifying for the final.
At one point, Birmingham Phoenix were gunning for the record score of 200, set the previous evening by Northern Superchargers. Instead, with openers Finn Allen and Will Smeed, Phoenix have built rapid foundations on which their middle order has built big scores. Tonight, Allen and Liam Livingstone, the Phoenix captain in the absence of Ali, propelled Phoenix forward.
The pair added 71 runs from 45 balls. Livingstone added his second fifty of the tournament from just 31 balls, clearing the ropes three times.
Trent Rockets needed a breakthrough, and it was the pace of Marchant de Lange that bowled Allen for 29. Eight balls later, Livingstone followed, smashing Samit Patel back down the ground, and Steven Mullaney was in an excitable mood when he clung on.
The loss of the two set batsmen slowed everything down as Miles Hammond, and Chris Benjamin tried to steady things. Though Benjamin couldn’t resist temptation and skied a Sam Cook slower ball, Tom Moores took the simple catch.
Hammond weighed in with a helpful 38 from 20 balls towards the end, but from where Phoenix had started, it seemed twenty runs short of where they would have liked finishing on 166 for 6.
The home crowd had every faith their top order could propel them to victory, with big hitters of the calibre of D’arcy Short and Alex Hales. And, usually, that faith is justified.
Short was starved of the strike early on, and by the time he faced any of it, Rockets were 20 for two, as Nathan Pennington bowled Hales. The bowler followed it up with the wicket of Dawid Malan, who played a loose shot early on.
It was the Rockets middle order that brought them back into the game. Steven Mullaney, who is Nottinghamshire captain, and Samit Patel, who both know this ground well, started to find the boundary. When Patel fell, Lewis Gregory joined Mullaney.
Patel lasted eight balls and smashed 16. With Gregory and Mullaney in the middle, it started to get close and had Mullaney was able to keep going to the end, it could have been a different story.
Phoenix picked up regular wickets. Imran Tahir removed Patel and Gregory. Three for Pat Brown meant he was the pick of the bowlers. He also deprived Mullaney of fifty, with Tom Helm clinging on to a catch on the boundary as Mullaney trudged off for 49.
It proved to be too much for Rockets to chase down, but they live to fight another day.