Bears open up breathing space
Keith Barker’s explosive innings allowed Warwickshire Bears to ease to victory by six wickets against Northamptonshire Steelbacks at Wantage Road and move second in the Friends Provident t20 North Group.
Alex Wakely, with 41 from 30 balls including three fours and one six, top-scored for the hosts as they recovered from 41 for three to post 149 for five, with Chris Woakes taking 3-21.
Barker then crunched 48 from 28 balls as the Bears chased down their target with 11 balls to spare, despite Zimbabwe all-rounder Elton Chigumbura taking three wickets in four balls in the middle of a spell where he took 3-19.
Northants won the toss and chose to bat in glorious conditions and David Sales made 16 before holing out in the fourth over to Chris Woakes, with Ant Botha taking the catch at mid-off.
Ireland wicketkeeper Niall O’Brien followed him back to the pavilion when he launched Barker high in the air and was caught by the bowler.
Chaminda Vaas, who has made a string of half-centuries in this competition recently, scored only 16 before edging Imran Tahir to wicketkeeper Tim Ambrose to leave the Steelbacks on 41 for three.
The fourth-wicket pairing of Stephen Peters and Wakely stabilised the hosts’ innings, however, putting on 77 between them in 11 overs.
But Woakes removed both in the 17th over when he forced Peters, who scored 39 off 31 balls, into a top-edge and be caught at short third man by Botha.
Two balls later, Wakely smashed him down to Steffan Piolet at long-off.
Chigumbura and captain Andrew Hall guided Northants to the end of their innings.
Chasing 147, Warwickshire lost Neil Carter for eight to the last ball of the first over when he drove Vaas to David Lucas at gully.
Darren Maddy and Barker then rapidly built in the next five overs as the Bears put themselves comfortably ahead of the required run-rate.
The second-wicket pair had added 77 between them in 41 balls when Chigumbura forced Maddy, who made 30 off 24 balls, to edge to O’Brien.
Needing 54 runs from 10 overs, Warwickshire lost two wickets in consecutive balls when Barker smashed Chigumbura to Hall at extra cover. Captain Jim Troughton then edged him to O’Brien.
But an unbeaten stand of 54 between Ian Westwood and Ambrose, not out on 24 and 30 respectively, eased Warwickshire home in the penultimate over.