Moeen Ali's game-changing flourish leads Birmingham Phoenix to third win in a row
Liam Livingstone adds unbeaten fifty to seal victory after Benny Howell runs through Rockets
Birmingham Phoenix 148 for 3 (Moeen 52, Livingstone 51*, Wood 3-16) beat Trent Rockets 145 for 6 (Sams 55*, Gregory 35*, Howell 3-28) by seven wickets
Moeen Ali's game-changing flourish led Birmingham Phoenix to their third consecutive win and extended their 100% record at Edgbaston in the men's Hundred. From 16 off 17, Moeen hit two fours and four sixes in his next nine deliveries to reach a 26-ball half-century, breaking the back of the chase to inflict a first defeat of the season on Trent Rockets, throwing the qualification race wide open.
Rockets slid to 53 for 6 after being asked to set a total for the first time this season as Benny Howell ran through their middle order, but an unbroken stand of 92 between Daniel Sams and Lewis Gregory set Phoenix 146 to win in front of a 15,800 crowd in the first Birmingham double-header of the season.
Luke Wood bowled a brilliant, hostile new-ball spell for Rockets, cleaning up Will Smeed and pinning Miles Hammond plumb in front, before bursting through Moeen to finish with 3 for 16 to give Rockets a foothold. But Liam Livingstone saw them home, reaching his own half-century in 32 balls when he smeared Gregory for six over square leg to seal the win.
Alex Hales and Dawid Malan's last two opening partnerships were worth 86 off 58 balls and 85 off 38, but on Monday night they were both out within the first eight balls of the Rockets' innings. Having seen them tuck into the seamers against Northern Superchargers and Manchester Originals, Moeen went for spin early on, taking the new ball himself despite a short leg-side boundary for Hales to attack.
Hales targeted the short side but top-edged his sweep to deep midwicket and Moeen went for the jugular, giving Imran Tahir a bowl in the powerplay for the first time this season. Malan hammered his second ball over the long boundary for six, but could only skew his third to mid-off to leave Rockets 11 for 2 after eight balls. Tahir celebrated in trademark style, adding a Cristiano Ronaldo-style celebration at the end of his run.
Imran Tahir celebrations are the best celebrations #TheHundred | @ImranTahirSA pic.twitter.com/kzRliukvgd— The Hundred (@thehundred) August 15, 2022
Benny and the Jets
Howell's ability to squeeze teams in the middle period has been unmatched across the first one-and-a-half seasons of the Hundred, and after Tom Helm had taken a brilliant catch off his own bowling to remove Colin Munro, he found himself coming on at 36 for 3 after 35 balls.
He struck with his second ball, clean-bowling Tom Kohler-Cadmore, then trapped his Gloucestershire team-mate Ian Cockbain lbw and had Samit Patel caught at short cover. His figures after 10 balls were a scarcely believable 3 for 4 as Rockets slid to 53 for 6, but took a dent as Gregory and Sams led the recovery.
Sams provides late launch
Rockets are a trademark Andy Flower short-form side, packed full of allrounders to give their bowling variety and their batting depth. As a result, their seventh-wicket pair of Gregory and Sams still had plenty of power to add, and they added an unbroken 92 off 46, the highest partnership in the men's Hundred this season.
Sams, unquestionably the pick of the signings in June's overseas wildcard draft, brought up a 23-ball half-century in his first Rockets innings, thumping Howell's final two balls for six before reaching the landmark by carving Helm's slower ball over the longest boundary in the ground. Rockets' 145 looked competitive, but proved well short.
Moeen made a slow start, struggling for timing early in his innings on a deceptively slow pitch. "It felt ugly, horrible," he said. "I pride myself on hitting nice shots but I had to revert to slogging a bit." He was struck on the helmet when he was very late on a sharp bouncer from Wood, who swung the new ball at high pace in a stunning opening burst, and eked out 16 off his first 17.
With 80 required off 50, he decided it was time to hit the accelerator against Gregory. "It was a short [leg-side] boundary and I just fancied him a bit," he said. "Me and Livi decided we were going to slog our way out of it." He slashed two balls through third and clubbed two over midwicket to take 20 off the first four of the set, then sliced the fifth into the night sky.
Malan set himself underneath it at extra cover, but was blinded by the floodlights and ended up having to take evasive action after losing sight of the ball. Moeen then hoyed Patel over the rope for consecutive sixes, putting the chase beyond doubt as a chant of "Super, super Mo, super Moeen Ali" rang out.
By the time Wood cleaned him up, the required rate was only a nudge over a run a ball; Matthew Wade and Livingstone finished the job in style.
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98