Birmingham Phoenix 130 for 7 (Wade 38, Payne 2-12) beat Welsh Fire 126 for 5 (Banton 44, Richardson 2-15) by four runs
Having only reached 130 in their 100 balls it seemed set up for Fire to notch their first win of the summer in front of a 10,901 crowd. David Miller, with 35 off 30, almost got the Welsh team over the line, but the final push wasn’t good enough.
Phoenix now have two wins from three games and look set to challenge to go one better than last year. Aussie quick Richardson was named as the Hero of the Match as he took 2 for 15 in his 20 balls, including 11 dot balls.
Fire skipper Josh Cobb was delighted to have won the toss and put the Phoenix into bat. Three days earlier, last season’s runners-up had notched 176 in a revenge win over the reigning champions Southern Brave, with 20-year-old opener Will Smeed hitting the Hundred’s first century.
Thoughts of a repeat may have been on his mind, but David Payne had other ideas and sent him back after a mere four balls without scoring. The home pace attack kept a tight rein on the Phoenix batters and they limped to 50 off 50 balls, having lost four wickets.
Moeen Ali and Chirs Benjamin steadied the ship with a stand of 22 for the second wicket before two wickets fell in a superb set of five from George Scrimshaw. Moeen was caught behind after striking a boundary and three balls later Liam Livingstone gave his much-prized wicket away trying to ramp the home paceman. That made it 27 for 3 at the end of the powerplay, Phoenix’s lowest in the format.
Cobb then threw himself into the attack and managed to tighten the noose. Chris Benjamin was caught on the boundary by Dwaine Pretorius, although claimed the maximum as the South African fell over the boundary, but Cobb bowled him next ball.
They reached 130 for 7 in the end, Helm pulling the last ball for what was to prove an invaluable six.
Fire, having lost their opening two games, desperately needed to hold their nerve in a moderate run chase. Their two totals this season in those defeats were only 119 and 107.
Phoenix didn’t concede a run in the first set of five balls from Richardson and he also removed Joe Clarke. Sam Hain wasn’t going to hang around, ramping a six to get off the mark. He eventually chopped on to a slower ball from Helm having scored 23 off 15 balls to leave Fire 28 for 2.
Tom Banton finished off the powerplay with a four and a six to take the home side to 34, but when Ben Duckett was bowled by Ben Howell, Fire were 53 for 3. They reached the 50-ball mark with 59, nine runs ahead of the Phoenix total, and it was anyone’s game.
Banton and Miller put on 32 for the fourth wicket, including 11 runs from Imran Tahir’s only set of five. Successive sixes – 90 and then 96 metres – from Miller off Livingstone put Fire back in the driving seat, but Richardson conceded just two from the penultimate set and Helm defended 11 from the last to leave home supporters crestfallen.