All Rhodes lead to quarter-finals as Birmingham Bears' perfect start continues
Captain Will's T20 career-best leads thumping victory over winless Leicestershire
Birmingham Bears 190 for 7 (Rhodes 79, Hain 45, Mike 4-22) beat Leicestershire 155 (Steel 46) by 45 runs
Will Rhodes, Birmingham Bears' captain, posted a T20 career-best 79 as the North Group leaders notched a fourth consecutive win and consigned Leicestershire to a fifth straight defeat in the Vitality Blast. Sam Hain overtook Ian Bell as the Bears' all-time top scorer in the format in making 45 as they racked up 191 for 7. Ben Mike took a career-best 4 for 22 bowling two death overs but Naveen-ul-Haq was the pick of the Foxes' bowlers with 2 for 20 from his four.
Scott Steel made 46 and Rishi Patel 30 but after losing three key batters in the powerplay, Leicestershire were always off the pace and fell 35 runs short, Tim Bresnan taking 3 for 29 and Danny Briggs 3 for 35.
Asked to bat first, the Bears lost both openers to Naveen's slower balls, Ed Pollock miscuing his to short fine leg and Pieter Malan spooning one to mid-on, which left Bears 42 for 2 from the powerplay.
But Rhodes, dropped off Colin Ackermann on 27 when Naveen misjudged a chance at long-on, hit clearly to clear the ropes five times as he and Hain added 113 from 62 balls before Rhodes mistimed one to caught at square leg.
"I think I've owed the lads a performance like that," Rhodes said afterwards. "I've had a fairly bleak three or four months with the bat and to hit a few over the ropes is really pleasing."
Hain looked set for a fourth half-century in five innings but going after Ben Mike he holed out to long-on, where Lewis Hill took a fine catch above his head, with Carlos Brathwaite caught at wide long-off in the same over.
Mike claimed two more in the final over, tracking a skier from Michael Burgess out to midwicket for a return catch, before Dan Mousley hit the next ball straight to deep point, although Bresnan pulled the hat-trick ball for six and overthrows made for an untidy end.
Josh Inglis hit two of his first three balls to the boundary as Briggs opened the bowling for the Bears, but he was bowled trying to cut, setting the tone for a costly powerplay for the Foxes, who also lost Lilley to a stumping off Briggs, and Ackermann to a slower ball from Bresnan that he hit straight to mid-on to leave them 48 for 3.
Rishi Patel raised Leicestershire's hopes with 30 from 25 balls and as he and Steel added 51 off 39 the Foxes needed 92 from eight overs. But after Patel's flick off his legs found the fielder at square leg, Steel was beaten by Briggs and stumped, with Louis Kimber run out in the same over.
Hill was left unbeaten on 26 but wickets fell quickly at the other end, Bresnan dismissing Mike and claiming his third wicket off the last ball as Ed Barnes holed out to deep midwicket.
"It's a very disappointing night for us," Paul Nixon, Leicestershire's head coach, said. "We had a really good bowling powerplay but there was a bit of a breeze down the ground and the Bears used it as they targeted the Pavilion end, scoring about 100 in eight overs. They looked a side full of confidence.
"We didn't field well again - the catch dropped off Hain should have been taken. There were too many expensive overs and when we batted there were too many soft dismissals. The first three dismissals essentially gave their wickets away."