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Dramatic finish as Bears claw their way through

Birmingham Bears sneaked into the NatWest T20 Blast quarter-finals with the easiest of victories over Leicestershire Foxes - and a helping hand from 120 miles to the north.

Notts Outlaws' thrilling win against Yorkshire Vikings at Headingley meant the Bears took fourth place in the North Group with a point to spare after their 52-run success at Edgbaston, setting up a trip to face Essex Eagles next Saturday.

Varun Chopra's fourth half-century in this season's tournament helped them to 160 for six and, for the second time inside a week, the Foxes' batting imploded as they mustered only 108 after losing their top four in the powerplay.

By their own admission, the Bears have a habit of making things unnecessarily difficult and this Twenty20 campaign has been no exception.

After reeling off four straight wins, they lost the next four completed fixtures and found themselves in the last chance saloon.

They needed to win the last three games - and then hope the Headingley result went their way, which it did when Yorkshire failed to defend a total of 200 for five.

Leicestershire, three-time winners of the competition, never got into contention this season and they arrived at Edgbaston at a low ebb after their dismissal for 90 when replying to Nottinghamshire's 121 for nine last Sunday.

Their lowest total in the 12 seasons of Twenty20 cricket ratcheted up the desire to make amends on the last night of the group phase. It simply did not happen.

Skipper Josh Cobb exposed the batsmen to another dismal run-chase by choosing to field first and Chopra's single-minded management of the home side's innings ensured it would be a testing target.

Aside from an opening stand of 50, there was only modest support for Chopra once Jigar Naik bowled Will Porterfield for 28 with his fourth delivery.

The canny Scott Styris picked up a wicket and also ran out Laurie Evans.

The case for taking the pace off the ball was further justified by Naik, who took 2-23, when Rikki Clarke was well caught by Matt Boyce in front of the midwicket rope.

Chopra faced 57 deliveries in a well-paced innings containing half-a-dozen fours and had just hit his only six when he was caught at long-on off Cobb.

The Bears pushed Jeetan Patel up the order and he promptly smashed 15, including two sixes, from the first four balls he faced and then drove Ben Raine to long-on from the fifth.

The match was over as a contest before Leicestershire could raise a whimper. A fired-up Clarke bowled Cobb with his sixth delivery and when Greg Smith set off for a single after surviving an lbw appeal in the all-rounder's next over, he was run out by Patel.

Dan Redfern was quickly leg before wicket to Oliver Hannon-Dalby and the innings was in tatters by the time Niall O'Brien drove Recordo Gordon to Clarke.

Boyce raised the only obstacle with 41 from 43 balls until he was bowled by Gordon, who finished with 3-18.

Chopra said the best-laid plans at shutting out news of Nottinghamshire's run-chase at Headingley misfired.

He said: "We had a chat about not paying any attention to it, then the score was announced every five overs on the scoreboard, so that proved somewhat difficult, but luckily we heard what we wanted to hear.

"We played very well. Obviously we had a lot to play for, Leicestershire not so much, and once we got up and running we were always in a strong position."

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