Birmingham Bears beat Leicestershire Foxes by 52 runs in the final NatWest T20 Blast group game at Edgbaston to dramatically secure a place into the quarter-finals.
At the start of the evening, the Bears knew that they needed to land victory and see Yorkshire lose to Nottinghamshire if they were to sneak through.
Although the Vikings looked to have the task in hand for much of the evening, the Outlaws eventually won a high-scoring thriller at Headingley as former Fox James Taylor smashed 35 not out from 14 balls.
The Bears kept their side of the bargain with a clinical display at Edgbaston. Captain Varun Chopra steered his charges to 160-6 from their 20 overs with a fine 72 (57b), Jigar Naik (4-0-23-2) being the pick of a tidy Foxes attack.
The chase took the shape of the last defeat to the Outlaws, with too many wickets falling in the powerplay and two run outs not helping matters.
Matthew Boyce did his best to hold things together with 41 from 43 balls but the Foxes never threatened the Bears and were dismissed for 108 in the final over.
Recordo Gordon led the way for the Bears with 3-18 from his four overs while spin twins Ateeq Javid (4-0-15-0) and Jeetan Patel (4-0-22-0) also excelled.
Josh Cobb again called correctly and elected to field on a hot and humid night at Edgbaston. There were two changes for the Foxes as Dan Redfern and Anthony Ireland came in for Ned Eckersley and Charlie Shreck.
Redfern’s inclusion gave the Foxes three spin options, and the Bears followed suit. They handed a debutant to leg-spinner Josh Poysden as well as having tournament joint leading wicket-taker Patel and fellow off-spinner Javid in their XI.
Skipper Chopra hit two consecutive fours through extra and mid-on off Ireland (1-0-11-0) in first over, and Will Porterfield cracked Atif Sheikh (2-0-15-0) through backward point in the second as the Bears moved to 18-0 after two overs.
Redfern came on for an early bowl and conceded just three before Porterfield edged and cut boundaries in the fourth over. A well-placed sweep off Redfern brought Chopra another boundary, and Porterfield drove and glanced Ben Raine (3-0-31-1) for two successive fours as the Bears progressed to 47 without loss after the powerplay.
The 50 came up midway through the next over before Porterfield (28, 19b) chopped the following delivery from Naik onto his stumps. Naik conceded just five in his opener, and the same amount came from each of the next two overs from Scott Styris (4-0-30-1) and Naik as the Foxes regained some control.
A welcome boundary from the Bears perspective came as Jonathon Webb (12, 12b) struck the first ball of the tenth over through mid-on. Styris gained revenge by having the batsman neatly stumped by Niall O’Brien at the end of the over, the Bears 70-2 at that point.
Chopra chipped the final ball of Cobb’s first over extra for four before another couple of tight overs followed from Styris and Redfern (4-0-27-0). The captain then played pleasant drives in the extra cover region to pick up fours off the Kiwi all-rounder, and he moved to a 44-ball 50 off the last ball of Styris’ spell with a two. That stroke also took the score into three figures.
A terrific piece of work in the deep by Boyce accounted for Rikki Clarke (9, 12b) in the 15th off Naik. The fielder took the catch and was aware that he was close to the rope, so flicked it back into play before completing the job. Chopra swept the first maximum of the innings in Redfern’s last offering but a fielding combination of Stryis and O’Brien then dismissed Laurie Evans (2, 2b), who was looking for an ambitious second run.
By the time Naik had finished his fine spell, the Bears were 126-4 with three overs to go. Javid flicked Raine for four in the antepenultimate over and Cobb then bravely brought himself back on to bowl the 19th. The move initially worked as Chopra holed out to Greg Smith at long-on but Patel (15, 5b) went on to clout a six over mid-wicket as 11 came from the over.
A total of 14 were gathered off the last over from Raine as the Bears finished with momentum. Patel hit another mighty maximum off the first ball, this time stepping away to give himself room to strike over extra cover, before his lively knock was ended as he picked out Redfern at long-on. Some scampering from Javid (12*, 11b) and Tim Ambrose (4* 3b) ensured the Bears ended with a run rate of eight.
There was an early blow for the Foxes as Clarke (2-0-7-1) bowled Cobb (1, 5b) at the end of the first over. O’Brien played a nice drive to collect the first boundary from the second ball of the second over but another wicket fell at the start of the third over as Smith (1, 2b) was run out by Patel’s direct hit seconds after the batsman had survived a big lbw appeal.
O’Brien cracked Clarke backward of point to pick up another four before a third wicket went inside four overs as Redfern (0, 2b) was pinned in front by Oliver Hannon-Dalby. The Bears continued to dictate terms; Javid went for four in his opener, Boyce saw an inside edge off Gordon flash past his stumps before going for four, and O’Brien (16, 15b) was then caught by Clarke at mid-off off the same bowler.
The Foxes were in all kinds of bother on 27-4 after the powerplay. To add to their problems, Patel entered the attack for the first time and only two singles came from the over. Poysden’s (3-0-26-0) leg-spin was then introduced and Boyce reverse swept a much-needed boundary.
A couple of sweeps from Boyce in the youngster’s next over also found their way to the ropes as the Foxes moved to 56-4 at halfway. The stand of 31 - the highest of the innings - then ended as Styris (11, 15b) chipped Patel to Evans at long-on.
Only three came off Patel’s third over, and a mix-up between Boyce and Tom Wells (0, 1b) then led to the youngster being run out at the start of the next over. Boyce produced a well-placed sweep to the ropes later in that over, but the Foxes were 67-6 at the end of the 12th.
Raine (7, 6b) clattered the returning Gordon over extra for four before the bowler hit his stumps later in the over. The same thing happened to Boyce in the seamer’s next over after he tried to lap sweep.
Ireland (6, 3b) struck Patel for a huge six over long-on but the next ball saw him pick out Porterfield at deep mid-wicket. Naik (11*, 18b) and Sheikh (7, 11b) saw the Foxes past the 100-run mark but the number 11 holed out off Hannon-Dalby (2.5-0-17-2) off the penultimate ball of the innings.
An announcement that the Outlaws had landed a tremendous win had already come over the PA system, so the Bears knew they were through and can now plan for a trip to Essex Eagles in the last eight. The Foxes, meanwhile, will prepare for their Royal London One-Day Cup opener against Derbyshire Falcons on Sunday morning at Grace Road (10.30am start).