Spin from both sides dominated on a tired pitch as the Bears took the points in a low-scoring contest on at Edgbaston.
Freddie Heldreich continued his excellent Blast campaign with a career-best four for 27. Heldreich took a wicket in each of his four overs as only Sam Hain (35, 31 balls) and Alex Davies (32, 18) passed 15 for the home side.
The Steelbacks’ reply was smothered by the four-pronged home spin attack as the pitch, under covers before the start and used for a third game, showed its age. Dan Mousley took three for 14 and Moeen Ali three for 16 to help his side to their first win in four attempts under his leadership before he now leaves to join England’s squad ahead of next week’s Ashes opener.
Davies supplied the Bears with a punchy and, it was to prove, priceless start despite quickly losing two partners. Rob Yates lifted Tom Taylor to deep square leg and Ali’s unproductive batting return to the Bears was completed when he skied David Willey to mid off. The England player departs for Ashes duty on the back of 48 runs in four Blast knocks.
Davies perished in pursuit of his third six when Saif Zaib took a well-judged catch on the rope in front of the Hollies Stand off Heldreich. That was the spinner’s fourth ball – he struck another big blow with his tenth when he picked up Glenn Maxwell again as the Australian chipped tamely to extra cover.
Heldreich’s 17th delivery inflicted further damage when Mousley missed an attempted pull and fell lbw and when his 19th ousted Chris Benjamin, to another well-judged catch by Zaib at deep mid-wicket, the Bears were 93 for six. As so often, the burden of responsibility fell on Hain and when he was bowled, making room to cut Zaib, a moderate total was assured.
The Steelbacks found the going even tougher against the twirlers, notably Mousley who took two crucial wickets for eight in his first two overs. The 21-year-old bowled Chris Lynn and Josh Cobb either side of taking a fine catch in the deep to remove the dangerous Emilio Gay (18, 15 balls) off Maxwell.
Ali then struck twice as Willey was deemed to have edged behind and Lewis McManus heaved a very short ball to deep mid-wicket where Mousley took the catch. After ten overs, the Steelbacks had stuttered to 50 for five with 88 needed from the last ten.
Scoring at that rate in such conditions was out of the question. Zaib and Taylor nurdled 29 from 30 balls but Mousley returned to the attack to have Taylor caught at extra cover and Danny Briggs hit James Sales’ middle stump to collect his 249th T20 wicket.
A quest for 63 from the last five overs was hopeless. Zaib (25, 29 balls) was bowled behind his legs sweeping at Ali and while Tye struck lustily at the death the Steelbacks fell 30 short.