A valiant half century from Rob Keogh wasn’t enough for the Steelbacks as they fell 14 runs short of a big chase at Edgbaston.
The Bears’ total of 191 for five owed much to a strong debut from Chris Benjamin. The 22-year-old struck an unbeaten 60 (34 balls, seven fours, two sixes) to lead a recovery from 68 for four.
The Steelbacks looked on course through the first half of the reply, with Ricardo Vasconcelos (39, 33 balls) and Josh Cobb (35, 18 balls) looking ominous, but a few tight overs meant the chase fell away.
After choosing to bat, the Bears received a brisk start from Adam Hose. The opener was injured embarking on a quick single on five, resumed with a runner and struck 37 (28 balls) before skying Graeme White to long on.
Three wickets fell in seven balls as Tom Taylor’s excellent throw punished Kyle Mayers for hesitating at the start of a second run and Freddie Heldreich trapped Sam Hain lbw.
That was 68 for four but Benjamin, having already had a chance to acclimatise himself as a runner for Hose, started by reverse-sweeping his first ball for four. Fortunate to survive a run out appeal that appeared to have him well short on 30, the debutant took advantage of his lifeline to put on a stand off 84 in 52 balls with skipper Will Rhodes (32, 25 balls), the debutant registering a 27-ball half-century.
Fourteen balls remained when Rhodes lifted Mohammad Nabi to deep mid-wicket. Those 14 balls produced 39 runs as Carlos Brathwaite celebrated his 33rd birthday with three sixes in a ten-ball 27.
After the Steelbacks lost Ben Curran, lbw to Yates, to the seventh ball, Vasconcelos and Cobb thrashed 65 in 34 balls. Both batsmen showcasing different approaches, Vasconcelos used touch and placement to find the boundary five times while Cobb showcased some thumping power for his set. The Captain had registered the innings first maximum the ball before he was brilliantly caught by Rhodes at mid on off Craig Miles.
Seven runs from Lintott’s first two overs cranked up the pressure which told when Vasconcelos top-edged Rhodes to short third man. Lintott had two wickets in two balls when he claimed a return chance, a very full delivery jammed into the pitch and back to the bowler by Tom Taylor, White trapped lbw the following ball.
Rob Keogh kept the Steelbacks hopes alive into the final over alongside Steelbacks debutant Emilio Gay, the pair threatening with a partnership of 36 in just 19 deliveries. But despite finishing unbeaten on 55, he couldn’t repeat the heroics of 2020, the Steelbacks falling 14 runs short to end their Vitality Blast campaign.