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The Steelbacks cemented their place at the top of the NatWestT20Blast North Group by thrashing Birmingham Bears by eight wickets (D/L) at Edgbaston.

In a match reduced to 16 overs per side, Birmingham mustered a paltry 86 for eight against an excellent collective bowling effort headed by Blackpool-born paceman Richard Gleeson's competition-best 4-0-12-3.

The Bears' top five batsmen managed only a combined 19, including seven from Luke Ronchi on his farewell appearance as overseas player, before only Ateeq Javid's unbeaten 34 (27 balls) give them anything to bowl at at all.

Chasing a D/L target of 86, the Steelbacks made short work of it, reaching 89 for two with 21 balls to spare.

Having chosen to bowl, the visitors barely put a foot wrong after taking three wickets in the first 15 balls. Gleeson, playing only his fourth game in the Blast, struck with his third and fifth deliveries as Sam Hain sent up a skier and Ian Bell's stumps were demolished by one that kept low.

Richard Levi then supported the bowlers with two brilliant slip catches, seizing a screamer, one-handed, high to his right, to oust Laurie Evans off Moin Ashraf and then pouching a fast-travelling edge from Ronchi off Gleeson.

When Alex Wakely took a sharp catch at cover to dismiss Will Porterfield off Mohammad Azharullah, the Bears were in a major tangle at 25 for five.

After a passing shower lopped another over off the innings, Birmingham needed something spectacular but they hit further trouble against the spinners. Rikki Clarke and Mark Adair attempted big hits off Graeme White and Josh Cobb respectively, missed and were bowled. Jeetan Patel gave White the charge and Adam Rossington his sixth stumping in Twenty20 cricket.

Javid at least offered some resistance with a chirpy 32 which included half of the innings's six fours.

The Steelbacks lost Rossington in the third over when he sent up a skier but when Josh Cobb, with just a single to his name, sent one miles into the air in the next over Patel inexplicably grassed it. Defending such a low score, Birmingham needed to take all their chances.

A lofted drive from Levi was held by Bell at mid-off but Cobb made the most of his reprieve by steering his side to victory with an unbeaten 39 (35 balls) in an unbroken partnership of  51 in 38 balls with Ben Duckett (24, 17 balls).

Steelbacks captain Alex Wakely said:

"It was pretty much the perfect game for us. I thought last week was the first time we had managed to string it all together, bowing well, batting well and fielding well, and today we carried that on.

"Early wickets in Twenty20 are key. It's very hard to claw it back once you lose two or three quick wickets but it was the way we then carried it on that was so impressive for me.

"Bowling-wise we actually has a few new tricks up our sleeve that we were going to try today but when we got a couple of early wickets we kept it the same.

"The great thing about this team at the moment is that, whereas when we won the T20 in 2013 we had the same team all the time, this season we have had lots of injuries and lots of changes and people batting out of position and bowling different overs but whoever it is they have stepped up to the plate and come in and performed brilliantly. Moin Ashraf has come in and bowled really well up front and at the death."



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