Chris Benjamin fires on Birmingham debut to help keep Bears in quarter-final running

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Debutant thrashes half-century before Jake Lintott helps turn the screw in Northants chase

Birmingham 191 for 6 (Benjamin 60*) beat Northamptonshire 177 for 8 (Keogh 55*, Rhodes 3-41) by 14 runs

Birmingham Bears preserved their Vitality Blast qualification hopes for another few hours at least by closing their group campaign with a 14-run victory over Northamptonshire Steelbacks.

Their win turned the pressure on Worcestershire Rapids who visit Leicestershire Foxes this evening. Will Rhodes’s side faces a tense wait – they will qualify if the Foxes do them a favour but a Rapids victory would take them through at the expense of their rivals.

The Bears’ total of 191 for 5 owed much to a dazzling debut from Chris Benjamin. The 22-year-old struck an unbeaten 60 from 34 balls, with seven fours and two sixes, to lead a recovery from 68 for 4.
The Steelbacks, qualification hopes long extinct, mustered 177 for 8 in reply. They threatened briefly through Ricardo Vasconcelos, who struck 39 off 33 balls, and Josh Cobb, and Rob Keogh bashed an unbeaten 55 from 33 balls when the cause was lost, but the chase fell away in the face of pressure built by superb spin bowling – 4-0-19-2 – from Jake Lintott.

After choosing to bat, the Bears received a brisk start from Adam Hose. The opener was injured embarking on a quick single on 5, resumed with a runner and struck 37 from 28 before skying Graeme White to long-on. Three wickets fell in seven balls as Tom Taylor’s excellent throw punished Kyle Mayers for hesitating at the start of a second run and Freddie Heldreich trapped Sam Hain lbw.

That was 68 for 4 but Benjamin, having already had a chance to acclimatise himself as a runner for Hose, started audaciously by reverse-sweeping his first ball for four. That launched a stand off 84 in 52 balls with skipper Will Rhodes, the debutant racing to a 27-ball half-century.

Fourteen balls remained when Rhodes lifted Mohammad Nabi to deep midwicket. Those 14 balls produced 39 runs as Carlos Brathwaite celebrated his 33rd birthday with three sixes in a thunderous ten-ball 27.

After the Steelbacks lost Ben Curran, lbw to Rob Yates, to the seventh ball, Vasconcelos and Cobb thrashed 65 in 34 balls before Cobb was brilliantly caught by Rhodes at mid-on off Craig Miles.

Seven runs from Lintott’s first two overs cranked up the pressure, which told when Vasconcelos top-edged Rhodes to short third man. Lintott removed Taylor and White with successive balls and the Steelbacks’ Blast campaign was laid to rest while the Bears’ attention turned to Leicester.

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