It all came down to the final ball of the match. Could Carlos Brathwaite hit Will Davis for his third six of the over to tie the match? Answer – no! Just a single meant that the Foxes had won by five runs and deprived the Bears of their fourth successive win.
At the start of the Jubilee weekend, God Save the Queen replaced Sweet Caroline as the crowd’s anthem of choice. Some in the Hollies Stand had obviously drunk a few too many toasts to Her Majesty and were ejected early but otherwise, it was largely a happy occasion, despite the result going against the home side.
On a hybrid pitch where no-one timed the ball consistently well and with long boundaries so that there were no mis-hit sixes to be had, the Foxes’ score of 152-9 was better than it seemed. Their innings would have been a poor effort were it not for the sixth wicket stand of 60 in just 5.1 overs between Scott Steel and Greg Mike, ended only when Steel hit Jacob Bethell straight to cover and left Mike with a vain effort to beat Chris Benjamin’s throw.
Scott Steel provided some much-needed – well, steel would be the word – to the Foxes’ batting. His well paced 72 included just two fours but five sixes. Steel and Mike aside, only Rehan Ahmed reached double figures for the Foxes. Seven of the nine wickets to fall went to the three spinners, Danny Briggs, Jacob Bethell and Jake Lintott. It was Lintott (4-27) who did most damage with his left arm wrist spin.
There were one or two lapses in the field by the Bears including Chris Benjamin dropping Steel in just the fifth over but Alex Davies, with two stumpings and three catches, was outstanding. As a Lancastrian import, Davies has hardly been taken to the hearts of the Bears’ supporters but maybe today was a turning point. He also top scored with 43 in the Bears’ innings.
In the Bears’ stuttering effort, wickets fell regularly. Greg Mike and Rehan Ahmed shared six wickets between them, but Callum Parkinson’s four overs for 24 runs provided important control for the Foxes at key moments. Whilst the bowlers deserve credit for their good lines and lengths, few of the Bears’ batters will want to remember the shots that led to their downfall. Jacob Bethell, Adam Hose, Paul Stirling, Chris Benjamin and, indeed, Davies himself all perished to shots that were either badly timed or poorly executed.
At the halfway stage, the Bears were well poised at 71-3 but from there, it all went wrong. Even Carlos Brathwaite, until that last over, struggled to make an impact and looked a shadow of the great hitter that we know him to be.
With a long way to go in the Blast, both sides will feel that they have much to play for before the Group stages are completed. The Bears are in second place with their three wins out of four whereas the Foxes, with two wins out of five, need a few more days like today to enhance their chances of re-appearing at Edgbaston on Finals Day.