Steelbacks Friends Life t20 Campaign Review
The Steelbacks kicked off their Friends Life t20 campaign at home in front of the Sky Sports cameras against Gloucestershire Gladiators. Rain caused the game to be limited to 12 overs a piece, which made the action even more exciting. Thanks to some fast scoring by Kyle Coetzer, Cameron Whitw and captain Alex Wakely took the Steelbacks to 124 for 4 from their 12 overs. In reply, Gloucestershire could only score 83 for 9. This was mainly due to an unbelievable spell from loanee Graeme White, who recorded figures of 4 for 14 from 3 overs. So the Steelbacks won by 41 runs.
A week later the Steelbacks hosted the always difficult Warwickshire Bears in front of a big crowd, here at the County Ground. Batting first, a 71 not out innings from opener Kyle Coetzer led the Steelbacks to a total of 161 for 2. Then thanks to four wickets from Muhammad Azhar Ullah, Warwickshire could only muster 134 for 8 in reply, meaning the Steelbacks won by 27 runs.
Two days later the Steelbacks travelled down to Taunton, to take on pre-competition favourites Somerset. A 47 by David Willey, led the Steelbacks to a score of 152 for 7, as Alfonso Thomas took 3 wickets. In reply, a late surge by Alviro Petersen who scored 64 not out, led Somerset to a 6 wicket victory.
The Steelbacks tried to bounce back a week later when they hosted Glamorgan, in what turned out to be an absolute thriller. The Steelbacks won the toss and decided to field first. Glamorgan finished on 153 for 7, after Muhammad Azhar Ullah took career best figures of 4 for 14 from his 4 overs. Then in reply, half centuries by Cameron White who scored 68 and Alex Wakely who scored 52 not out, led the Steelbacks to the win. But victory was only secured after Steven Crook hit the last ball for four to win a nerve-wracking game by 7 wickets.
Two days later, the Steelbacks travelled to Cheltenham to face Gloucestershire Gladiators again. With the Steelbacks batting first, South African Richard Levi went to work, smashing an unbelievable 110 not out from 62 balls including 4 sixes as the Steelbacks scored a massive 206 for 3. In reply, Gloucestershire put up a brave fight, but 4 wickets by Willey restricted them to 189 for 6, as the Steelbacks won by 17 runs.
A few days later Somerset visited the County Ground in front of the Sky cameras and yet another packed crowd. Thanks to an excellent 63 off 36 balls by Steven Crook, Steelbacks finished on 150 for 8. In reply, after an initial fast start by Somerset, 3 wickets by Azhar Ullah and two excellent run outs halted the Somerset momentum. Somerset ended up 10 runs shy of their target, giving the Steelbacks a memorable win.
The Somerset win gave the Steelbacks some good momentum, going into a big weekend with two away games in two days. The first game was at Edgbaston away to Warwickshire. Unfortunately the team couldn’t carry on the momentum as they were bowled out for 111. Then despite a strong bowling effort, Warwickshire managed to just chase the total down with 3 balls remaining.
The following day the Steelbacks travelled to face Worcestershire Royals. A 43 ball 70 by Richard Levi, which included 6 sixes led the Steelbacks to a total of 137 for 6. Then despite a 44 from West Indian Andre Russell, three wickets by David Willey was enough to restrict Worcestershire to 132 for 6, giving the Steelbacks a 5 run victory.
Then the Steelbacks travelled to Cardiff to take on Glamorgan in a crucial game, with the winners likely to earn a home quarter final. Four wickets from Azhar Ullah restricted Glamorgan to 125 for 9, despite a 50 from Chris Cooke. In reply, a brilliant 71 not out from 48 balls by Cameron White, inspired the Steelbacks to 129 for 4, as they won by 6 wickets with 9 balls remaining.
In their final group game, the Steelbacks already had a home quarter final guaranteed so rested some of their key men such as David Willey and Muhammad Azhar Ullah. The Steelbacks hosted Worcestershire Royals, who batted first. The man of the match was always going to be Worcestershire’s Moeen Ali who scored 72 from 45 balls, as Worcestershire scored 182 for 6, before taking 5 wickets, as the Steelbacks were restricted to 145 for 6.
For the quarter finals, the Steelbacks were drawn against Durham and a bumper 5,300 strong crowd came to cheer the Steelbacks on. The Steelbacks won the toss and elected to bat. After strong starts by Coetzer and Willey, White took over as he smashed 58 not out from 32 balls including 4 sixes, as the Steelbacks finished on 183 for 4. The Durham innings never really got going, except for a good cameo by Ben Stokes who scored 51 from 29 balls, but it wasn’t enough as Durham finished 147 for 6. This meant the Steelbacks won by 36 runs and were going to Finals Day at Edgbaston!
The Steelbacks were drawn to face Essex Eagles in the first semi-final of Finals Day. Essex batted first and punished the Steelbacks for dropping 3 catches. Napier was the star of the innings hitting 38 from 15 balls. This originally looked a very good score but a 78 run partnership from 35 balls between White and Crook who smashed 46 from 24 balls, as well as a half century from Richard Levi, helped chase the total down with 11 balls remaining, to win by 7 wickets. The run chase was the highest successful chase in the history of t20 Finals Day and meant the Steelbacks would compete in their first ever t20 Final.
In the final the Steelbacks met Surrey who had beaten pre-Finals Day favourites Hampshire Royals in the semi-final. Surrey won the toss and put the Steelbacks into bat, as the weather started getting damper. The Steelbacks got off to a great start before Levi was dismissed at the end of the fourth over and the umpires then took the players off, due to rain for 45 minutes.
But on the return, David Willey truly took the centre stage, after being moved up to open the batting due to an injury to Kyle Coetzer. Willey even hit England t20 bowler Jade Dernbach for 20 off one over on his way to the fastest half century in this year’s tournament coming from only 19 balls, as he smashed 60 from 27 balls including 4 sixes. From there White and captain Wakely carried on the big hitting as they had a 107 run partnership from 56 balls, with both players making half-centuries. This led the Steelbacks to a monster total of 194 for 2 from the rain reduced 18 overs.
In reply except for some resistance by Australian Glen Maxwell, Surrey could not handle the brilliant Steelback bowlers, as all five bowlers used, picked up at least one wicket. But once again the star man was David Willey, who recorded figures of 4 wickets for 9 runs, which included the match finishing hat-trick, as well getting a run out from a direct hit. The brilliant performance led the Steelbacks to an amazing 102 run win!!!
Unsurprisingly Willey won the man of the match award, as the Steelbacks lifted their first ever t20 trophy!!! This is the first major trophy for the club in 21 years and shows the remarkable turnaround the team have had since last season, proving hard work does pay off. Well done Steelbacks!!!!!