Rossington, Wakely, White down Birmingham Bears
Northants Steelbacks 200-5 (Rossington 85, Wakely 53no) beat
Birmingham Bears 126 (Bell 62, White 4-20) by 74 runs
NatWest T20 Blast North Group, Northampton
NatWest T20 Blast North Group
In a clash that pitted two of the three most recent winners of county cricket's T20 competition against each other, Northants Steelbacks beat Birmingham Bears by 74 runs in tonight's NatWest T20 Blast North Group match at Northampton's Wantage Road.
Batting first, Northants scored 200 for five thanks to half-centuries from Adam Rossington and Alex Wakely before Graeme White took a hat-trick to bowl Birmingham out for 126 in reply.
The win lifts the Steelbacks back to the top of the table and pushes them three points clear of third-placed Birmingham whose inconsistency as the group stage comes towards an end is threatening to suck them into a battle with up to five other teams to reach the quarter-finals as Northants and Notts Outlaws break clear at the top.
After Birmingham captain Ian Bell won the toss and asked Northants to bat first, openers Richard Levi and Adam Rossington set about laying solid foundations with a first-wicket partnership of 103 in 11 overs.
Levi hit 31 in 25 balls before he was brilliantly caught by Sam Hain off Jeetan Patel but Rossington took centre stage, going on to strike a 29-ball half-century and make 85 in 59 balls in all - a new career best.
Josh Cobb edged Aaron Thomason behind for a golden duck after Levi departed and when Rossington was caught by Hain off Thomasan in the 14th over, the Bears managed to slow the flow of runs for a while, only for some late hitting from Alex Wakely and Steven Crook to power the Steelbacks up to 200.
Wakely blasted five fours and three sixes on his way to 53 not out in 23 balls while Crook fell in the penultimate over for 23 in 16 as both Patel and Thomasan claimed two wickets to Keith Barker's one.
In reply, Birmingham openers Bell and Hain put together a better powerplay by five runs than Northants had managed, reaching 56 without loss compared with 51. However, the overs that followed saw Northamptonshire wrest back the initiative as Rory Kleinveldt dismissed Hain (22) and Matthew Wade (0) in consecutive deliveries, the former caught by White and the latter by Levi.
Bell completed a 30-ball half-century as Birmingham reached the halfway stage at 80 for two before in the 11th over, Seekkuge Prasanna bowled Laurie Evans for 13 and followed that up with the stumping of Rikki Clarke for seven in the 13th.
At that stage, Birmingham needed 96 to win from the final seven overs and much of their hopes rested with Bell, who was promptly caught in the deep by Rob Keogh off White for 62 and that blow put the game beyond the visitors.
Atiq Javid (2), Thomasan (3), Patel (1), Barker (1) and Oliver Hannon-Dalby (5) fell as Birmingham subsided quickly, White completing a hat-trick by dismissing Patel and Barker with consecutive deliveries after having seen off Javid with the final ball of his previous over.
He finished with four for 20, Prasanna three for 26 and Kleinveldt three for 14 as 2013 champions Northants completed a T20 Blast double over the 2014 winners
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