Saturday August 6, 2022

Trent Rockets 147 for 4 (Hales 58, Munro 36, Root 34*, Helm 2-11) beat Birmingham Phoenix 143 for 7 (Livingstone 47, Moeen 35, Sams 3-24, Samit 2-12) by six wickets

Alex Hales‘ composed half-century took Trent Rockets home in a chase of 144 against Birmingham Phoenix on a slow, used pitch at Trent Bridge. His partnerships of 42 and 79 with Colin Munro and Joe Root respectively were key to the successful chase.

Phoenix, missing several key players because of illness or injury, were asked to bat first and posted 143 for 7, losing their way after reaching 79 for 2 at the halfway stage. Moeen Ali and Liam Livingstone both played important cameos, but Samit Patel put the brakes on by taking 2 for 5 from his first ten balls – bowled in two consecutive sets from the same end – and Daniel Sams took 3 for 24 on debut.

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Moeen struck early in the chase, bowling Dawid Malan with a ball that kept low, after being slapped over the covers for two fours, but Phoenix failed to take the early wickets that they needed: Munro targeted Graeme van Buuren’s left-arm spin, taking his first five balls for 16, and the required rate was always in check.

Hales looked to accumulate, nudging and nurdling his way to 30 off 26, and then hammered van Buuren for two sixes in three balls to remove any pressure. He skied one back to Tom Helm to fall for 58 and Tom Kohler-Cadmore then fell second ball, but Root’s innings had taken them close and Lewis Gregory struck the winning boundary down the ground.

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Hales, Root ice chase
Rockets needed 83 off 62 balls when Root walked out to join Hales and while they struggled to pick up boundaries early on, they set themselves up for a late push by knocking the ball around and keeping wickets in hand.

When Hales took down van Buuren, hitting him for two sixes over long-on – the first tipped over the boundary by Miles Hammond on the rope – the equation dropped from 51 off 34 to 39 off 31. Both batters then picked up boundaries off Imran Tahir, and Root swung Moeen over midwicket.

“I’ve spent my whole career here and it’s somewhere I’ve always enjoyed batting,” Hales told the BBC afterwards. “It was about trying to get the run rate down as early as possible. We thought it was a par score but Trent Bridge is a small ground with a fast outfield; we spoke about partnerships being important.”

Livingstone takes down Rashid
Rashid Khan is only available for a handful of games in the Hundred this season because of Afghanistan’s upcoming series against Ireland, but did not make the mark that Rockets had hoped for. He had not played a game for a month, an unusually long break for one of the busiest cricketers in the world, and struggled to find his rhythm.

Moeen swung his second ball for six over midwicket, and Livingstone monstered one into the stands. He bowled a tight third set but Livingstone tucked into his third, swinging him for three consecutive sixes over the leg side. Rashid finished with 0 for 39 from his 20 balls, his most expensive spell in his ten Hundred games.

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Livingstone, meanwhile, went one run clear of AB de Villiers and now tops the list of batters with the most T20 runs while facing Rashid: 115, off 65 balls.

Sams, Wood excel at the death
Phoenix only managed to score 14 runs off the final 15 balls of the innings: Sams and Luke Wood relied heavily on their cutters, and put the squeeze, and 143 for 7 proved slightly short of par, even on a slow, used pitch. Sams, picked ahead of Marchant de Lange, one of the competition’s standout fast bowlers last year, finished with 3 for 24, having Livingstone caught at long-off with the final ball of his spell, while Wood’s 20 balls cost exactly 20 runs.

Phoenix’s missing men
Phoenix, last year’s runners-up, had to cope with a number of absentees: Olly Stone, Chris Woakes and Tom Abell have been ruled out of the tournament through injury, while Adam Milne is still recovering from an Achilles problem and Matthew Wade felt unwell the day before the game.

They will need to recover quickly, with a repeat of last year’s final against Southern Brave to follow at Edgbaston on Wednesday. “We probably left a few runs out there in the end. They played really well in the powerplay,” Livingstone said. “We thought we had a competitive score but just lost to a better team.”

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98

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