Bears inflict more misery as Steelbacks are brushed aside

Ben Duckett played his part in getting the Steelbacks' innings back on track after a disastrous startBen Duckett played his part in getting the Steelbacks' innings back on track after a disastrous start
Ben Duckett played his part in getting the Steelbacks' innings back on track after a disastrous start
Different competition, same opposition, different location, same result.

Thirty hours or so after receiving an innings hammering in the Championship, Northamptonshire, in their Steelbacks’ guise, took another thorough beating at the hands of the Warwickshire, sorry, Birmingham Bears.

A dismal batting effort, Steven Crook and to a lesser extent David Sales and Ben Duckett apart, served up a mediocre target that was devoured with disdainful ease.

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That makes it three defeats from as many outings for Kyle Coetzer’s men and they now face a tricky assignment in Manchester tomorrow against a Lancashire Lightning side who have won five of their last six.

Having been put in at Edgbaston, as far as uses of powerplays go, the Steelbacks’ effort bordered on the criminal.

A score of 24-3 is rarely bettered - if that is the best way of describing it - but if the total was poor, the fact that David Willey faced a measly six deliveries in the opening six overs was scandalous.

A bit of pace and life in the surface seemed to flummox the visiting top order to such an extent that Rikki Clarke, who bowled his four overs straight through from the pavilion end, recorded the most economical figures in Warwickshire (or is that Birmingham?) history with 4-0-8-1.

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His wicket was that of Rob Keogh, well caught low down at first slip by Varun Chopra for a scratchy dozen and this topped off a strong start which was initiated by Chris Wright.

In his first, and the innings’ second over, Wright had Richard Levi taken at mid-on from a skier and Kyle Coetzer neatly snared by Chopra following a leaden-footed waft.

In fact, Willey’s inability to get on strike continued right up to his dismissal in the ninth by which time he had taken guard just 14 times.

His departure, hit in front heaving to leg off Jeetan Patel, came shortly before the midway point by which time the score had staggered to a poorly 42-4.

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Rarely does this kind of malaise occupy a complete set of 20, though, and Sales and Crook set about a recovery of sorts which ended when Sales was excellently taken by a retreating Ateeq Javid at short third man.

While Crook was present a defendable, if significantly under par, score was possible and he added a quickfire 47 with Duckett, the former’s muscular style dovetailing nicely with the latter’s improvised flicks and dabs.

The loss of a couple of wickets put the brakes on some of the late impetus but that didn’t prevent Crook from reaching a valuable, and well-crafted, 35-ball half century in the final over that concluded with the scoreboard showing 133-7.

If this appeared anaemic prior to the Bears’ reply, after the six overs with fielding restrictions it was barely worth taking a second glance at.

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William Porterfield and Chopra had wiped 56 off the required amount without taking anything resembling a risk and when the Irishman fell in the 10th over, bowled by Graeme White making room to cut, that had been advanced to 95.

Jonathan Trott, back in the fold after a few weeks out, only mustered a single before chipping Muhammad Azharullah to midwicket but this hardly made a difference to the outcome.

Chopra had already cruised to a 29-ball 50 which was littered with crisply struck drives, especially through the off-side, as none of the bowlers, or changes made by Coetzer, made any real impact.

And it was fitting that Chopra was there at the end, an undefeated 68 constituting his evening’s work, which arrived with a hefty 24 balls to spare.