Another defeat for Steelbacks as table-topping Bears prove too strong
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A mixed-bag of a bowling and fielding performance allowed the visitors to post a testing 202 for six, and although the Steelbacks made a decent fist of the chase, certainly initially, they were behind the rate from the end of the powerplay onwards and fell short at 181 for seven.
Ricardo Vasconcelos batted superbly, hitting 13 fours as he made 65 from 39 balls, and there were decent efforts from skipper David Willey (33) and Lewis McManus (29), but they had given themselves too much to do.
It was a third loss in four matches and the Steelbacks have some serious work to do in all aspects of the game if they are to turn their campaign around and stand a chance of reaching the quarter-finals.
Steelbacks named an unchanged side from the one which claimed a first win of the Blast season at Derbyshire Falcons on Monday, with Bears also sticking with the team that saw off Lancashire at Edgbaston.
David Willey won the toss and chose to bowl, and the powerplay went okay for the Steelbacks initially in terms of containment, but they failed to make a breakthrough and Bears closed the opening six overs in good shape at 55 without loss.
There were a couple of close things for run-outs, but the one big miss saw AJ Tye put down Rob Yates off Tom Taylor for 22 in the sixth.
Then, off the first ball of the seventh bowled by Freddie Heldreich, Taylor dropped a straightforward chance off Davies above his head at deep gully.
It was sloppy stuff from Steelbacks.
It was the final ball of the eighth before the Bears hit a six, Davies pulling Sales over square-leg, but they had ominously eased to 79 for none without breaking sweat.
By the halfway point it was 100 without loss, but the first ball of the 11th saw Heldreich tempt Davies down the wicket and Lewis McManus completed the stumping, with the Bears skipper going for 46 off 29 balls.
That brought Aussie Glenn Maxwell to the crease and he tried to hit Heldreich on to Abington Avenue first ball, but only succeeded in picking out Tye on the long-on boundary and it was 100 for two.
Yates brought up his 50 from 38 balls, and carried on finding the boundaries as he reached 71 from 52 balls.
He would have added six to that tally but for a sensational catch from Josh Cobb on the deep mid-wicket boundary, diving to take the ball two-handed high to his left off the bowling of Willey and Bears were 149 for three after 16.
The 18th over bowled by Tye saw Bears lose two wickets to catches on the boundary but still hit 12 runs, and the Steelbacks just couldn't contain the visitors no matter what they tried as they closed on 202 for six, Sam Hain finishing 48 not out.
Steelbacks needed a good start with the bat and they got it, with Vasconcelos the aggressor and steering them to 41 without loss after four as he reached 34 not out off 20 balls.
Chris Lynn had looked on from the other end, and when he went for a big shot off Craig Miles he miscued and picked out Maxwell at mid-on and Steelbacks were 41 for one.
Vasconcelos carried on regardless and eased to 48 before Cobb sliced off-spinner Dan Mousley straight to point to go for just three, and it was 58 for two, which is how the powerplay ended.
The majestic Vasconcelos brought up his 50 off 30 balls in the seventh over, and then dispatched Ed Barnard for three sumptious fours off successive balls to keep Northants in the hunt at 75 for two after eight.
The left-hander was in great nick, but then gave his wicket away as he sliced Craig Miles to deep gully to go for 65 from 39 balls, having hit 13 fours. His dismissal saw his side slip to 81 for three in the 10th.
At halfway, Steelbacks were still in it at 90 for three with Willey and Saif Zaib in the middle, but the Bears spin bowlers turned the screw and Zaib perished going for a big hit to ease the pressure to make it 112 for four.
While Willey was at the crease there was always a chance of a Steelbacks victory, but he was struggling with his timing.
He did manage a couple of fours before going for 33 off 27 balls, hitting Danny Briggs straight to point. Willey felt it was a bump ball, but the umpire disagreed.
Lewis McManus struck a couple of hefty blows on his way to 29 from 14, but when he went it was 159 for six in the 18th over and the game was as good as up.
Bears: 202-6 (Yates 71, Hain 48no, Davies 46, Heldreich 2-32, Willey 2-33, Tye 2-52)
Steelbacks: 181-7 (Vasconcelos 65, Willey 33, McManus 29, Miles 4-29)
Bears win by 21 runs
Steelbacks: Chris Lynn, Ricardo Vasconcelos, David Willey, Saif Zaib, Josh Cobb, Lewis McManus, Tom Taylor, Andrew Tye, Graeme White, James Sales, Freddie Heldreich
Bears: Robert Yates, Alex Davies, Glenn Maxwell, Sam Hain, Dan Mousley, Ed Barnard, Chris Benjamin, Danny Briggs, Craig Miles, Henry Brookes, Jake Lintott