Birmingham Phoenix bowlers snatch unlikely victory from Welsh Fire
Brilliant bowling at the death by Kane Richardson and Tom Helm allowed the Birmingham Phoenix to snatch a four-run victory from the jaws of defeat against the Welsh Fire at Sophia Gardens.
Having only reached 130 in their 100 balls it seemed set up for the Fire to notch their first win of the summer in front of a 10,901 crowd.
David Miller, with 35 off 30, almost got the Welsh team over the line but the final push was not good enough.
The Phoenix now have two wins from three games and look set to challenge to go one better than last year.
Australian paceman Richardson was named as the ‘Hero of the Match’ as he took two for `15 in his 20 balls, including 11 dot balls.
Fire skipper Josh Cobb was delighted to have won the toss and put the Phoenix into bat.
Three days earlier, last season’s runners-up had notched 176 in a revenge win over the reigning champions Southern Brave, with 20-year-old opener Will Smeed hitting the men’s tournament’s first century.
Thoughts of a repeat may have been in his mind, but David Payne had other ideas and sent him back after a mere four balls without scoring.
The home pace attack kept a tight rein on the Phoenix batters and they limped to 50 off 50 balls.
Along the way they lost all their top-line batters, many of who will not enjoy the review of game.
Moeen Ali and Chris Benjamin steadied the ship with a stand of 22 for the second wicket before two wickets fell in a superb set of five from George Scrimshaw.
Ali was caught behind after striking a boundary and three balls later Liam Livingstone gave his much-prized wicket away trying to ramp the home pacemen.
That made it 27 for three and the powerplay score of 27 in 25 balls was the lowest of all time for the Phoenix.
Cobb then threw himself into the attack and managed to tighten the noose.
Benjamin was caught on the boundary by Dwaine Pretorius, although claimed the maximum as the South African fell over the rope, but Cobb bowled him next ball.
By the end of a set of 10 balls from the Fire captain the Phoenix were 37 for four with 40 balls gone.
The Phoenix needed a partnership and it came from Australian star Matthew Wade and Miles Hammond, who put on 52 for the fifth wicket.
Wade hit Scrimshaw, Pretorius and Adam Zampa for sixes, but then fell to Zampa as he went for a repeat.
He scored 38 as the Phoenix slumped to 94 for six with 22 balls to go. They reached 130 for seven in the end, with Helm pulling the last ball for an invaluable six.
The Fire, having lost their opening two games, desperately needed to hold their nerve in a moderate run chase. Their two totals this season in those defeats were only 119 and 107.
The Phoenix did not concede a run in the first set of five balls from Richardson and he also removed Joe Clarke.
Sam Hain was not going to hang around, ramping a six to get off the mark. He eventually chopped onto a slower ball from Helm having scored 23 off 15 balls to leave the Fire 28 for two.
Tom Banton finished off the powerplay with a four and a six to take the home side to 34, but when Ben Duckett was bowled by Ben Howell the Fire were 53 for three.
They reached the 50 ball mark with 59, nine runs ahead of the Phoenix total, and it was anyone’s game.
Banton and David Miller put on 32 for the fourth wicket, including 11 runs off a set of five from Imran Tahir.
Successive sixes – 90 and then 96 metres – from Miller off Livingstone put the Fire back in the driving seat and they needed 13 off the last 10 balls but ended up losing by four runs.
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