Falcons keep Blast knockout hopes alive
Derbyshire Falcons bounced back to beat Birmingham Bears by 16 runs and keep themselves in the race for a Vitality Blast quarter-final place.
The Falcons sit sixth in the North Group on ten points with four matches left to play.
The seam attack, led by a professional 2-12 in four overs from Hardus Viljoen and 3-27 from the experienced Wahab Riaz, defended the Falcons’ 143-9 on a testing pitch at The 3aaa County Ground.
Billy Godleman came out of the blocks quickly and scored 23 off 14 balls in an opening stand worth 45 with Calum MacLeod (39) in 4.5 overs.
He was bowled by Aaron Thomason, who was in the action throughout the first innings, and when Anuj Dal (0) was run out off the following delivery, Derbyshire’s fast start was quickly pegged back.
Wayne Madsen and MacLeod started to rebuild and added 33 for the third wicket, before Madsen (20) was out to Grant Elliott, the first of four wickets in under five overs.
Matt Critchley and Alex Hughes both fell for three and MacLeod was caught in the deep by Thomason off Elliott for a well-made 39.
Gary Wilson became the anchor as wickets continued to fall at the other end; Riaz (7) and Viljoen (11) making cameos but unable to stay at the crease to build a partnership.
The Falcons captain ended the innings unbeaten on 30 and in the process passed 3,000 Twenty20 runs, as Derbyshire posted 143-9.
Proving to be a competitive total early in the Bears innings, Derbyshire began their defence well, taking a wicket in each of the first two overs.
Riaz struck after just two deliveries to remove the dangerous Ed Pollock (2) and the experienced Derbyshire attack began to increase the pressure from there.
Ravi Rampaul soon had the visitors 4-2 as Adam Hose chipped to Hughes who took his second catch.
By bowling tightly and restricting the runs, the bowlers forced the Bears into further risky shots which brought about regular wickets.
Sam Hain made 16, but he became the first of Viljoen’s two wickets as the Falcons pushed the required run rate above nine an over.
At 63-5 in the 12th over the game had turned in Derbyshire’s favour, but Ian Bell remained the constant, reaching his half-century off 40 balls to keep the visitors in the chase.
Comfortable playing shots around the wicket, including on-drives over the ring and flick over third man, Bell took 14 off the 15th over to leave the Bears needing 45 from the final five.
He became the sixth wicket to fall, and a telling wicket it proved to be, as the experienced batsman was caught by Dal off Hughes for 65.
A tough task for the Bears became too much thanks to highly skilful 18th and 19th overs from Viljoen and Riaz. The tall South Africa quick went for just one, before Riaz bowled two batsmen in the penultimate over, leaving the lower order chasing 32 from the final over.
Rampaul returned and ran out Chris Woakes (21) in the last over as Derbyshire ran out 16-run winners to maintain their chances of qualification from the North Group.
Vitality Blast is back! Derbyshire Falcons are back at home on Wednesday 8 August against Northants Steelbacks. Purchase your tickets in advance and save from £4. Buy online or call 01332 388 101.