Steelbacks slump to third straight T20 defeat as shocking batting collapse hands win to Bears
Northants Steelbacks suffered an embarrassing defeat in the Vitality T20 Blast as a staggering batting collapse saw them lose by 55 runs to Birmingham Bears at the County Ground.
Cruising along at 65 for two in the ninth over chasing the visitors' 170 for three, the Steelbacks lost three wickets for one run in five balls to slump to 66 for five.
But the carnage didn't stop there.
The Bears couldn't believe heir luck as wickets continued to tumble on a flat wicket, with Northants collapsing to 82 for nine, meaning they had lost seven wickets for just 17 runs.
A spirited late rally from last pair Nathan Buck and Ben Sanderson did at least lift the score to 115 all out, with the final wicket falling in the 19th over.
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But there is no getting away from the fact this was a shocking performance from David Ripley's side who have now lost their opening three games, all at home, and are rock bottom of the North Group table without a point.
The disastrous effort with the bat followed on from a improved performance with the ball, but this was a night to forget all round.
For the Bears, left-arm unorthodox spinner Jake Lintott claimed four for 20, ripping out the heart of the Northants batting.
The Steelbacks were dealt a blow prior to the start as captain Josh Cobb was ruled out having not recovered from the injury he suffered in Sunday's loss to the Notts Outlaws.
That meant Adam Rossington skippered the side, with Charlie Thurston replacing Cobb and Nathan Buck coming in for Brandon Glover.
Asked to bowl, the County got off to the best possible start as Graeme White dismissed Ed Pollock off the first ball of the match, the Bears man slicing a wide delivery straight to Buck at point.
That left to a tight powerplay as far as the Steelbacks bowlers were concerned, with just one six being hit by Pieter Malan, who was dropped by Ben Sanderson off Tom Taylor when on 17.
The Steelbacks did get their second wicket before the six overs were up though, Will Rhodes making a hash of attempted ramp off Wayne Parnell and being caught at short third man by Thurston.
The Bears were 40 for two at the end of the powerplay.
The visitors played a patient game, taking very few chances, but they continued to tick over at around eight an over until the 10th over when Sam Hain took a liking to Buck, hammering 19 off his over to take the Bears to 85 for two at the halfway point.
Malan then hit Taylor for successive sixes in the 12th over to bring up his 50, and the Bears were beginning to motor with the Steelbacks bowlers once more struggling to gain control of things on a flat wicket.
It was the ever-reliable Sanderson who did put the brakes on and also make the breakthrough with the final ball of a 14th over that cost just five, tempting Malan to sky an attempted pull and Rossington took the catch.
That left the Bears 124 for three, and brought the dangerous Carlos Brathwaite to the crease.
The West Indian is capable of producing fireworks, but they never came and it was Hain who kept things ticking over and pushed the visitors towards somewhere near the total they would have been targeting after winning the toss.
But some good bowling at the death from Parnell and Sanderson kept down the big hits as the Bears closed on 170 for three.
Pick of the bowlers for the Steelbacks was Graeme White with one for 19 from his four overs, while Parnell claimed one for 30 and Sanderson one for 32.
Just like the Bears, the Steelbacks lost a wicket in their first over, Rossington tamely chipping left-arm spinner Danny Briggs to Brathwaite at extra cover to depart for a duck.
Richard Levi has endured a tough start to the competition and that continued as he was out for 10, miscuing a pull off Brathwaite to Hain at deep mid-wicket and the Steelbacks were 23-2 in the fourth over.
By the end of the powerplay, Ricardo Vasconcelos and Wayne Parnell had steered the Steelbacks to 38 for two, with a lot of work to do.
They took the score to 65, but a ball after a glorious six over extra cver, Vasconcelos was bowled round his legs for 36 by Jake Lintott, and two balls later the left-arm spinner bowled Rob Keogh as well.
Suddenly the Steelbacks were in trouble at 65 for four and it went from bad to worse with the first ball of the 10th over as spinner Dan Mousley trapped Saif Zaib lbw for one for a third wicket in five balls.
From 65 for two to 66 for five in the blink of an eye and the game was slipping away.
Parnell had scored 19 from 16 balls when he tried to hit Lintott out of the ground and was caught on the deep mid-wicket boundary for 19 to make it 73 for six.
Taylor, Thurston and White then all quickly perished as things went from bad to worse.
Buck and Sanderson did at least drag things out and played some decent shots, but the ironic cheers from the home crowd when they took the score past 100 spoke volumes.
This was an awful night for the Steelbacks, and they have to bounce back quickly.