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North Group (D/N), Birmingham, May 26, 2022, Vitality Blast
(16/16 ov) 207/3
(14.2/16 ov, T:207) 81

Bears won by 125 runs (D/L method)


Paul Stirling ton leads Bears to victory on grisly night for Northamptonshire

Career T20-best 119 off 51 balls includes 34 in one over as hosts win rain-hit match by 125 runs

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Paul Stirling en route to his century  •  PA Images via Getty Images

Paul Stirling en route to his century  •  PA Images via Getty Images

Birmingham 207 for 3 (Stirling 119, Hain 66*) beat Northamptonshire 81 (Lintott 3-19, Briggs 3-21) by 125 runs (DLS method)
Paul Stirling smashed a scintillating debut century as Birmingham Bears launched their Vitality Blast campaign with a 125-run thrashing of Northants Steelbacks at Edgbaston.
Ireland batter Stirling blazed his career T20-best 119 from 51 balls with nine fours and ten sixes - including 34 from one over - to lift the Bears to 207 for 3 in an innings reduced by rain to 16 overs.
Sam Hain, who reached an unbeaten 66 from 32 balls, ensured the bowlers had no respite at the other end in a partnership of 170 from 70 balls which brought the big Edgbaston crowd to its feet.
Chasing a revised target of 207 in 16 overs, the Steelbacks then lurched to 20 for 3 from 20 balls and there was no way back. Spinners Jake Lintott, with 3 for 19, and Danny Briggs (3 for 21) exploited the pressure as Northants were bowled out for 81 with only three batters reaching double figures.
After the Bears chose to bat, Stirling belted his fourth ball for his new side for six on his way to 33 from 18 balls before a rain break. The deluge halted a blistering start from Hain who smashed his first ball over extra cover and had 12 from five when the rain arrived.
The rain only delayed the punishment for the Steelbacks' bowlers as the third-wicket pair collected a combined 142 in fours and sixes. James Sales copped the peak of the onslaught as Stirling hit the first five balls of an over for six, before slicing the sixth through slip for four.
Stirling thundered to his third T20 ton, from 46 balls, and celebrated with a six which landed 20 rows back in the Hollies Stand before perishing to a catch at long off in the final over.
It was a bruising start to the Blast for the Steelbacks' bowlers - just 23 of 96 balls they delivered were dots. Their batters then took a few bruises too as their reply floundered to 40 for 5 in seven overs. Northants needed their overseas debutant to emulate Stirling but Aussie ace Chris Lynn reached only 16 before lifting Henry Brookes to long leg.
Brookes had already bowled Ben Curran and Josh Cobb was then brilliantly held at deep mid-wicket by Jacob Bethell. The Steelbacks needed 16 an over from the last 11 overs and melted under the pressure.
"I don't think we could have ticked off more boxes than that," Stirling said. "It just seemed to be my day and Sam Hain's as well. He is such a classy player and made me look like the big brute of the partnership. He really helped me at the other end when I was not going quite so well. We seemed to dovetail well."
John Sadler, the Steelbacks' coach, said: "No excuses, we just didn't execute well enough, but we know how good Paul is and tonight was one of those nights for him. Sometimes you just have to take your hat off to a guy and say, 'well played' and that was the case tonight for Stirlo. Sam Hain played beautifully as well but we were not as good as we want to be."

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