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31st Match (N), Leeds, August 17, 2021, The Hundred Men's Competition
(74/100 balls, T:144) 147/2

Phoenix won by 8 wickets (with 26 balls remaining)

Player Of The Match
92* (40) & 3/25

Liam Livingstone ransacks 92* as Birmingham Phoenix soar into Hundred final

Stand-in captain hits 20-ball fifty after Phoenix bowlers succeed in dragging back Superchargers

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
Liam Livingstone brought up the fastest fifty of the Hundred  •  Getty Images

Liam Livingstone brought up the fastest fifty of the Hundred  •  Getty Images

Birmingham Phoenix 147 for 2 (Livingstone 92*, Allen 42) beat Northern Superchargers 143 for 8 (Kohler-Cadmore 71, Livingstone 3-25) by eight wickets
Liam Livingstone's six-hitting blitz led Birmingham Phoenix into Saturday's Hundred final at Lord's after a remarkable comeback with the ball set up a cruise to victory against Northern Superchargers at Headingley.
Phoenix needed to win - or tie - to guarantee they would finish top of the group stage and qualify automatically for the final, and when Chris Lynn and Tom Kohler-Cadmore hit 65 off the 25-ball Powerplay, their chances of doing so looked slim.
But their three pace-off options - Livingstone, Imran Tahir, and the self-proclaimed "fast spinner" Benny Howell - returned 5 for 61 between them in 60 balls, and Adam Milne's death-bowling masterclass meant Superchargers limped to 143, with Kohler-Cadmore starved of strike towards the end of his 71.
Livingstone then smoked the fastest fifty of the competition to date, off 20 balls, to break the back of the chase inside the Powerplay. His 92 not out was the joint-highest score of the Hundred, alongside Jemimah Rodrigues in Superchargers women's opening game, and his 10 sixes were the most in an individual innings.
Phoenix look set to welcome Moeen Ali back into their side for the final, with an update on his availability expected shortly, and included Tom Abell for the first time this season following his hamstring injury. Few pundits backed them at the start of the competition but their ultra-attacking strategy with the bat and their canny bowling attack have seen them top the group with six wins out of eight.
Phoenix will play the winners of Friday's eliminator at The Oval, between Southern Brave and Trent Rockets. Superchargers were already eliminated, and missed Adam Lyth and Harry Brook, both of whom tested positive for Covid-19 last week. They finish fifth in the men's table.
Pepsi's fizzy pop
Phoenix's cruise to victory looked a long way off when they were under the pump in the Powerplay, with Chris Lynn and Tom 'Pepsi' Kohler-Cadmore swinging for the hills and treating Pat Brown and Dillon Pennington with utter contempt. Kohler-Cadmore, left out earlier in the season, hit two sixes and a four off Pennington's first set of five, while Lynn got after Milne in his second set.
But it was Brown's first - and only - set that went the distance. Brown is a canny slower-ball specialist whose quicker ball is clocked at around 87mph/140kph, but Kohler-Cadmore set himself for the variations and swung him for three sixes and two fours, taking 26 off the last five balls of the Powerplay - the second most-expensive set of the tournament.
Spin to win
Howell and Tahir dragged things back when the field spread, finding some purchase from the pitch as the ball stuck in the surface. Livingstone, standing in for Moeen, brought himself on after 50 balls and it proved to be a turning point. He struck with his fourth ball, Lynn flashing an outside edge to short third, and after David Willey whacked him over long-on for six, Livingstone tossed the next ball up and caught a skier off his own bowling.
Howell conceded a single boundary when Jordan Thompson swung him over long-off for six, but he picked out Allen on the rope three balls later. Kohler-Cadmore was stranded at the wrong end, Livingstone rattling through his final 10 balls in a row for nine runs and the dismissal of Dane Vilas, and Milne bowled 10 on the bounce at the death, conceding only seven as he nailed his yorkers at above 90mph/145kph.
Livingstone tees off
Howell described the pitch as a "Powerplay wicket" at the interval, by which he meant that it was by far the best time to score runs with the field up. Phoenix lost a wicket early on, Will Smeed dragging on for a first-baller, but Livingstone and Allen were never likely to consolidate.
Livingstone pulled his fourth ball, from Callum Parkinson, for six over deep backward square leg and stayed in fifth gear for most of his innings. He hit Parkinson for two more vicious straight sixes in his next set of five, and when he swung three Willey balls out of four into the stands on the leg side, the required rate was down at 1.13 runs per ball by the end of the Powerplay.
Allen toyed with Adil Rashid in his second set of five, swiping him back over his head for two fours and a six, and Ben Raine was the next lamb to the slaughter as Phoenix's batters traded sixes. Parkinson returned to have Allen stumped but Abell ticked over then watched from the non-striker's end as Livingstone scooped and drove Matt Fisher down the ground, then let out a scream of delight when he pulled his tenth six over square leg to seal their final berth.
Livingstone was Phoenix's first pick in the initial draft for the Hundred and has more than vindicated their faith in him over the last month. "I've felt a little bit more pressure since Mo's gone away," he said afterwards. "We've got a young, fearless line-up and we've seen some great talent coming through. We've proved a lot of people wrong in this competition."
Leading Phoenix into the final is the latest landmark in what has been a remarkable summer for Livingstone after his T20I exploits for England against Pakistan. "I don't think I've seen an England batter burst on the scene quite like this since Kevin Pietersen," Nasser Hussain said on Sky Sports. "In white-ball cricket, we have found another one. This guy can hit a seriously big ball."

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98

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The Hundred Men's Competition