Steelbacks tie with Bears in extraordinary Edgbaston encounter

Rory Kleinveldt hit 28 from 10 balls for the Steelbacks at Edgbaston (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Rory Kleinveldt hit 28 from 10 balls for the Steelbacks at Edgbaston (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

The Steelbacks picked up their first point in this season's Vitality Blast campaign after an extraordinary encounter against Birmingham Bears at Edgbaston.

Northants smashed a stunning 231 for five, which is their record T20 score, before being pushed all the way by Ian Bell, who inspired the Bears with a brilliant 131 from 62 balls.

The home side looked set to provide a record T20 run chase, but, needing 10 from the final over, they could only tie with the Steelbacks.

Nathan Buck held his nerve with the Bears needing two from the final two balls, having Colin de Grandhomme caught by Steven Crook before giving Aaron Thomason just a single.

It was a surreal conclusion to a surreal clash, which for so long promised to give the Steelbacks their first win after a difficult start to the Blast.

After a short rain delay the Steelbacks started at a gallop with openers Richard Levi and Ben Duckett clobbering 40 from 19 balls.

Duckett edged behind at the start of a wicket-maiden from Boyd Rankin but Levi, reprieved on 22 when he was caught at deep square leg off a Thomason no ball, took particular relish to former team-mate Olly Stone.

Levi thrashed 18 from four balls in Stone's first over and 28, including four sixes, when the pace man returned to bowl the ninth.

Josh Cobb pulled Grant Elliott over the Hollies Stand and the second-wicket stand yielded 129 in 70 balls before Cobb lifted Thomason to deep mid-wicket.

Alex Wakely, who made 18 from nine balls, and Rory Kleinweldt, who smashed 28 from 10, kept the momentum high.

Levi began the last over needing 10 to reach his fourth T20 century. He found five runs and walked off unbeaten on 95, knowing his team were in a mighty position.

They strengthened that grip with two early wickets as Ed Pollock lifted Buck to mid-off and San Hain chipped a slower ball from Kleinveldt to extra cover.

Bell and Adam Hose batted steadily at first then gradually increased the tempo until they were parted by an unfortunate run out, with Wakely masterminding it to get rid of Hose for 64.

When Bell was coolly caught right on the extra-cover rope by Luke Procter the pendulum swung back the Steelbacks' way, but 21 needed from the last two overs became 10 from the last.

Buck kept his nerve to bowl a good final over and, rather cruelly after delivering such rich entertainment, both teams had to settle for a point which did their qualification hopes little good.