Nottinghamshire and Gloucestershire enjoyed derby wins to cement their positions in their respective groups as the likely line-up for the T20 Blast quarter-finals starts to take shape.
In North Group, Nottinghamshire beat Derbyshire to move four points clear of second-placed Lancashire, who play Yorkshire in Monday’s Roses battle.
Gloucestershire have opened up a two-point lead in Central Group.
They beat Somerset, but Birmingham Bears won the derby duel at Worcester.
Sam Hain hit a 30-ball half-century before going to make an unbeaten 73 as the Bears won for the third time on the trot to step up their late bid to reach the knockout stages – only their second victory in the past nine Twenty20 derby meetings with Worcestershire, who they meet again next Friday night at Edgbaston.
Chasing a home score of 178-4, set up by Jake Libby (63), Ben Cox (46) and Hamish Rutherford (41), the Bears won by six wickets on 181-4, with five balls in hand.
After a second golden duck in three days for England opener Dom Sibley, Hain’s innings was well supported by Adam Hose (43) and red-ball specialist Rob Yates, who proved a fine stand-in for injured Ian Bell.
Yates hit three sixes in his 29 off 18 balls on his T20 debut to effectively end Worcestershire’s hopes of a third successive Finals Day appearance – a fifth defeat in six games for the 2018 winners and 2019 runners-up.
“The situation is absolutely in our own hands now,” said Bears head coach Jim Troughton. “The way Sam Hain batted there, chasing that score, was excellent. And the Henry Brookes 19th over, a wicket maiden, was top class. But we’ve got Gloucestershire, Northants and Worcestershire again and we’ve got to go and win those games. We are brimming on that momentum you want in this competition.”
The Bears are now on nine points, level with second-placed Northants, who suffered a second straight defeat, this time to Glamorgan in Cardiff.
The visitors were bowled out for just 97, slow left-armer Prem Sisodiya and paceman Timm van der Gugten each taking three wickets as they lost by seven wickets with four overs to spare.
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Benny Howell returned in style from over a year out to set up an 11-run win for Gloucestershire over Bob Willis Trophy finalists Somerset at Taunton.
“After tearing a hamstring off the bone and needing surgery last August, I picked up a calf strain just when it seemed I was ready to play again,” he said.
“I had done a lot of batting practice because I was unable to run, so I was well prepared in that respect.”
Coming in at number eight with five overs left, Howell blasted an unbeaten 49 off 18 balls to stretch his side’s score to 203-6, in partnership with Jack Taylor (31 not out) as they cut loose to build on Ian Cockbain’s earlier 50 from 27 balls, hitting 14 sixes in total.
“The way the lads have been playing I consider myself lucky to get back in,” said Howell. “Things didn’t go quite so well with the ball, but the team are playing some amazing cricket and it was another big win for us.
Spinner Max Waller escaped the carnage with 3-18 before 18-year-old Will Smeed hit five sixes in his 82 off 49 balls on only his second T20 appearance for Somerset, supported by Lewis Gregory’s quick-fire 38, but they fell short on 192-8.
“I actually bought a season ticket to watch the team play T20 cricket this summer,” said Smeed. “So to be out there with them is unreal. But I was gutted not to be able to get the team across the line.”
Hales and Clarke on fire
Unbeaten North Group leaders Nottinghamshire maintained their storming start in their bid to go at least one stage further than their semi-final defeat by Worcestershire at Edgbaston a year ago.
Fresh from Friday night’s win over main rivals Lancashire, Joe Clarke smashed his second half-century in three days, 57 off 35 balls, while fellow England discard Alex Hales hit 49 off 33 as Nottinghamshire posted a challenging 198-6 against Derbyshire.
Wayne Madsen (68), Matt Critchley (44) and Alex Hughes (36 not out) all batted well, but the Falcons only managed 185-6 to lose by 13 runs.
In the other game in North Group, Leicestershire stay third, despite losing a low-scoring game against Durham at Chester-le-Street.
The Foxes made only 130-9, of which Arron Lilley made 45, with Matt Potts taking 3-19.
Ben Raine then hit an unbeaten 50 as Durham, fuelled by opener Graham Clarke’s 35 off 14 balls, breezed home with 28 balls to spare for only their second win.
Monday, 14 September (start times BST)
14:00 – Hampshire v Kent Spitfires – Ageas Bowl
14:00 – Sussex Sharks v Essex Eagles – Hove
18:15 – Middlesex v Surrey – Lord’s
18:30 – Yorkshire Vikings v Lancashire Lightning – Headingley