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North Group (D/N), Leeds, July 01, 2022, Vitality Blast
(19.2/20 ov, T:239) 207

Bears won by 31 runs


Birmingham ride on Paul Stirling 81 to leave Yorkshire fate in the balance

Hosts soundly beaten chasing 239 and must win final game to reach quarter-finals

David Hopps
David Hopps
Paul Stirling carves one into the off side, Birmingham Bears vs Northamptonshire, Vitality Blast, North Group, Edgbaston, May 26, 2022

Paul Stirling laid the platform for Birmingham  •  PA Images via Getty Images

Birmingham 238 for 5 (Stirling 81, Mousley 63*) beat Yorkshire 207 (Lyth 69, Brathwaite 3-32) by 31 runs
Yorkshire must avoid defeat against Leicestershire at Grace Road on Sunday to beat them to a quarter-final berth in the Blast after producing what surely ranked as their most slipshod bowling performance of the season in the face of a domineering Birmingham Bears at Headingley. They could finish anything from second to fifth.
Birmingham, confirmed as North Group winners, will take their place in the last eight with a home tie and as the form team in the country. Their 238 for 5 was the highest total ever made against Yorkshire in T20 cricket, the fourth-highest score of this season's tournament and the third-highest ever conceded on this ground.
It was another flat Headingley pitch, but not as flat as the seam bowling performance from a Yorkshire side which lacked conviction when the pressure was at its highest. For a county desperate for an uplifting display during a season of turmoil, it was a major disappointment, even allowing for the fact that this always had the makings of a slug fest - the two sides have now shared 12 totals of more than 200 this season.
Paul Stirling had not made a score of note since his stunning debut for Birmingham, 119 from 51 balls against Northants at Edgbaston, which included 34 in an over against James Sales. But when the mood takes him, he can pulverise mediocre bowling, as his 20 from Matthew Waite's opening over, the second of the innings, testified. His 81 from 41 balls had reduced the Headingley crowd to silence long before David Willey had him lbw.
Yorkshire had dismissed Birmingham for only 101 on a used pitch at Edgbaston earlier in the tournament, but this was different gravy. It took Birmingham only 8.1 overs to reach that landmark in the return fixture as Stirling deposited Jordan Thompson for one of his seven sixes. Yorkshire struck back courtesy of Adam Lyth's 69 from 38 balls, but 239 was a massive undertaking and when Lyth fell to a contentious diving catch at point - the umpires taking some time to confirm their decision that Chris Benjamin's catch was clean - they could not summon another innings of substance.
This was a fatalistic Yorkshire seam bowling performance, not helped by some fielding blemishes on an outfield dampened by rain that had delayed the start for 35 minutes. Too often, the body language was poor; there were too many shakes of heads and hands on hips. If brains were working overtime to formulate a plan, it was difficult to ascertain what it was.
The captain, Willey, who is moving to Northants at the end of the season, has faced enough pressure situations to stay level-headed in far more demanding situations than this and he would have emerged with creditable figures had he not conceded 20 off the final over of the innings as Dan Mousley completed an uninhibited, career-best 63 not out from only 25 deliveries, swinging to the leg side at will with Willey and Thompson most in the firing line.
Matthew Revis, who did not imagine himself as a bowler a year or so ago, as yet does not have much nous to fall back on. Thompson is trying to add variation to his game and has a Hundred contract to look forward to with London Spirit. Most disappointing was Waite, 26 now, but rarely providing indications of developing into a thinking bowler.
Yorkshire mustered only three successful overs in Birmingham's innings. One came late on from Thompson. The first two belonged to the legspinner Shadab Khan, wickets in them both, Alex Davies top-edging a sweep to short third man and Sam Hain caught at the wicket as he laid back to cut.
Lyth formulated Yorkshire's batting response. Finn Allen strikes at an astounding 201 runs per 100 balls but has yet to reach 50 and Harry Brook, coming in at no 6 with no time to go through the gears, was not best used. Lyth might have fallen to a relay catch at deep square leg on 47 when Benjamin flicked the ball back, but the opportunity was not taken by the support fielder. Jake Lintott's over went for 20 as a result, Lyth stepping well outside off stump to every delivery to target the short boundary and Lintott having no answer.
It was another redoubtable effort by Lyth, who is sixth in this season's runs list and whose day had begun with Yorkshire's confirmation that he had agreed a new three-year contract. Yorkshire have many more contracts to negotiate, and are braced for potential departures with the club still in some turmoil, but Lyth had been presented by their detractors as a player who might leave so his decision to stay could prove to be an influential one.
Until this defeat, Yorkshire appeared to have had a decent 48 hours. They could also luxuriate in Finlay Bean's stunning 441 from 518 balls in a 2nd XI match against Nottinghamshire at Lady Bay, which set a new record for the highest individual score in Second XI Championship history, beating Marcus Trescothick's 322 for Somerset 2nds against Warwickshire back in 1997.
Bean is not under contract with Yorkshire, having originally left the club in 2020. "He left their pathway system at 18, went into the leagues and did well and came back in to help out," said Tom Smith, Yorkshire's 2nd XI coach. "It is vital for everyone to know that, no matter what your situation is, the door is never closed." Yorkshire's director of cricket, Darren Gough, is committed to giving opportunity to late developers and Bean might well be a case in point.

David Hopps writes on county cricket for ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps

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