Woakes' half-century leads Bears to victory
CHRIS Woakes celebrated his call-up to the England squad for the second Test against India by making a match-winning 57 from 23 balls for Birmingham Bears as they beat Northamptonshire by 17 runs at Wantage Road.
After winning the toss, the Bears’ innings stuttered along until Woakes struck six fours and four sixes in a cameo that steered the visitors to 187 for 7. Josh Cobb made a career-best 103 from 62 balls in reply but found no support as Northants slumped to their ninth defeat in ten matches.
The Bears innings was initially hard work as only 38 came from the Powerplay for the loss of Ed Pollock for one and Adam Hose for eight before Ian Bell continued his excellent form.
He flicked the day’s first boundary through midwicket, swatted four more past mid-on and lifted Richard Gleeson elegantly over cover.
Hose, having edged a boundary from Nathan Buck over the wicketkeeper’s head, tried to scoop the same bowler over short-fine leg and was caught at the wicket for eight.
Pollock fell for just one, skying a pull stroke to mid-on where Seekkuge Prasanna took a solid catch.
Bell swung Ben Sanderson over mid-off and gracefully went in-to-out to lift Prasanna wide of extra-cover but he and Sam Hain, who added 64 for the third wicket, fell within three balls.
Bell drove Buck straight to extra-cover for 43 after Hain, who lifted a low-full toss from Sanderson over long-off for the innings’ first six, holed out to long-on off Prasanna.
At 128 for five after 16 overs, the innings was listing but Woakes ensured the Bears had plenty to defend. He survived a tough dropped chance on 12 as Gleeson couldn’t hold on running around from long-off and the miss proved costly.
He pulled the Gleeson for four through cover point and midwicket before top-edging a six as 16 came from the 17th over. Prasanna was swung over long-on for six more and Woakes found two more maximums in the final over that brought 17 as the Bears finished with a flourish, scoring 59 runs in 24 balls.
Northants also found the going tough in the Powerplay as Ben Duckett was superbly yorked by Olly Stone for two and with only 45 runs scored, the required rate was quickly into double figures.
Cobb was struck a blow to the head by a Stone bumper but warmed to his work with a punch off Woakes past mid-off and then through midwicket before driving Aaron Thomason down the ground for four and pulling a slower ball out of the ground over deep-square leg.
He put a ball through a similar region for his second six and flicked Thomason wide of short-fine leg for four, passing fifty in 35 balls.
But it was a lone chase as Ricardo Vasconcelos made 18 before driving Grant Elliott to long-off where Thomason took an excellent catch running to his right, Alex Wakely holed out to deep square for only three and Steve Crook, Charlie Thurston and Prasanna only made single-figure scores.
Cobb was left to chase the target himself and he went down on one knee to put another ball out of the ground and swung Woakes over long-on for six more.
64 were needed from 24 balls and Cobb heaved Thomason out of the ground over midwicket and past short-third man for four to leave 42 required from 18.
He drove Stone for four and charged back for a second off Woakes to reach his first T20 hundred in 58 balls and become the fourth T20 centurion for Northants.
But Stone’s final over only cost seven and with 27 needed from the last over, Cobb ran himself out coming back for a second run and a wonderful innings was consigned to a losing cause.