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Clarke shines as Birmingham stay top

Birmingham 160 for 8 (Clarke 46, Raine 3-24) beat Leicestershire 152 for 4 (Cosgrove 74, Clarke 1-10) by eight runs
Scorecard

A fine all-round performance from Rikki Clarke saw Birmingham through to an impressive victory over Leicestershire at Grace Road.

Having hit 46 from 36 balls after Birmingham batted first, the experienced Clarke then produced the most economical figures of the T20 competition so far this season, bowling his four overs (three of which formed part of the Leicestershire Powerplay) for just ten runs and picking up the wicket of opener Ned Eckersley.

Leicestershire captain Mark Cosgrove hit 74 off 56 balls to keep his side in the hunt but he was run out in the final over, from which 19 runs were required. The result leaves Birmingham top of the North Group, while Leicestershire may now need to win their final three games to qualify for the quarter-finals.

Earlier, the home side had shown few ill-effects from their long and fruitless trip to Durham the previous evening, from which they did not get back to Leicester until close to 3am.

Ben Raine struck with his first ball, Birmingham captain Varun Chopra going leg before wicket playing across a straight delivery, but the wicket Leicestershire craved came in the following over.

Clint McKay, clearly relishing bowling on a pitch with a little more pace than some at Grace Road this season, had already discomfited Brendon McCullum with a rising delivery when he pitched one up and the New Zealand skipper, who had scored an English T20 record 158 against Derbyshire at Edgbaston on Friday evening, mistimed an attempted drive straight into the hands of compatriot Grant Elliott at mid-off for just 6.

There was no panic from Clarke, however, and in company initially with Tom Lewis and then with Tim Ambrose, he steered Birmingham towards a competitive score before finally holing out off the bowling of Ollie Freckingham.

Clarke's bowling spell kept the Leicestershire chase in check, but with Cosgrove going strongly in company with New Zealand international Grant Elliott, they looked to be favourites at the 15-over point, when they were 111 for 2. At the same stage of their innings, Birmingham were 111 for 5.

But Elliott, who had been playing calmly, surprisingly lifted Recordo Gordon high to Lauire Evans at deep midwicket and, not for the first time this season, Gordon's well-disguised slower balls ensured the required rate kept rising until it was beyond the home team's reach.

"It was a good win," Clarke said. "It was not a complete performance by any means and we were not at our best but we have come away with two points which is the sign of a good side. We have that winning formula.

"We were perhaps 15 or 20 runs shy of what we wanted but we are a good bowling and fielding side and have defended that sort of total before and did so again. I was very pleased with my bowling. I had seen the way the ball nipped around for their guys so just tried to keep it simple, stand the seam up and get it through to Timmy Ambrose."

Leics 2nd innings Partnerships

WktRunsPlayers
1st27MJ CosgroveEJH Eckersley
2nd30MJ CosgroveBA Raine
3rd65GD ElliottMJ Cosgrove
4th22MJ CosgroveTJ Wells
5th8AP AgathangelouTJ Wells