Welsh Fire keep Hundred hopes alive after seam quartet stifle London Spirit
Welsh Fire’s seamers set them on the path to a six-wicket victory over London Spirit which keeps their top-three hopes alive, with Jonny Bairstow top-scoring as they chased down 110 in Cardiff.
New Zealand pair Matt Henry and Lockie Ferguson impressed in their first game while left-armers David Willey and David Payne also took advantage of a seam-friendly wicket, with all four taking two wickets each as Spirit were limited to 109 for nine.
Bairstow then led the Fire response with 41 at the top of the order before captain Tom Abell (37 not out) and Glenn Phillips (21no) finished the match with a partnership of 41 off 24 balls.
Spirit had Ravi Bopara to thank for getting them to three figures after a batting collapse, while Dan Worrall took three early wickets to give them hope in the field.
The result sees the two teams swap places in the table between fifth and sixth, while Fire are level on points with third place, but behind on net run rate.
Fire had lost Pakistan pace duo Shaheen Shah Afridi and Haris Rauf as they returned to international duty, but Henry and Ferguson flew in from New Zealand as quality replacements.
The new-look bowling attack was soon unleashed after visiting captain Dan Lawrence won the toss and elected to bat.
The tone was set by Willey, who did not concede a run in his opening five balls to Zak Crawley and he did not have to wait long to add a wicket, returning for the third set and dismissing the England Test opener for two off 11 balls, caught behind by Joe Clarke via bat and pad.
Henry was proving equally effective as his bounce saw the end of Lawrence second ball, caught in the covers by Abell, and the Spirit skipper was soon followed by Australian Matthew Wade caught behind trying to scoop Willey.
In-form Adam Rossington had been watching the carnage from the other end, but he fell trying to hit Henry out of the ground, a top edge well taken by Abell running back.
Willey and Henry bowled all the first 30 balls between them and the Spirit score at that stage was just 21 for four.
Daryl Mitchell and Bopara started rebuilding, but could only lead their side to 42 at the halfway stage and then Mitchell fell to Payne, Willey taking the boundary catch from a short ball.
Matt Critchley’s breezy 21 came to an end when he skied an attempted pull from Ferguson to another New Zealand international in Phillips.
The run rate was always slow and it was not until the 92nd ball that the runs equalled the balls bowled for the first time.
Bopara played responsibly, finishing 24 not out off 20, while Liam Dawson’s 24 was a useful contribution as well as Spirit crept up to 109
However, any suggestion it would be a comfortable chase for the home side was dispelled by Spirit opening bowler Worrall, whose away swing with the new ball proved hard to play.
Stevie Eskinazi went on the attack and skied the ball to Mitchell, while Clarke and Luke Wells both were caught behind misjudging the swing.
Worrall bowled 20 of the first 25 balls and although Bairstow struck a couple of fours, the Australian’s final figures were an impressive three for 24.
At 15 for three, Fire looked in trouble but Bairstow and Abell put on fifty before the England man was bowled for 41 going for a big swipe off Liam Dawson.
But that was as good as it got for Spirit as Abell survived to see it through, given good support by Phillips, with the pair taking 15 from a Mitchell set of five to settle nerves in the final section of the innings before Phillips finished the match with a straight six off Nathan Ellis.
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