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Phillips leads the Steelbacks to victory

Ben Phillips stared with the bat and ball to guide the Northants Steelbacks to a 38 run victory over the Warwickshire Bears at a damp Wantage Road.

Twenty20 cricket is almost perfect, big hits, big crowds, bouncy castles and pig roasts, there is a downside though and its part of our English summer, rain, itís the one thing that can ruin a perfect night of cricket.

The sold out signs had been plastered over the posters in the ticket offices at Wantage Road for a few days now, after Wednesdays night record breaking innings against the Gloucestershire Gladiators at Campbell Park in Milton Keynes demand for tickets was high.

Officials were in buoyant mood; this was after all their first official sell out in the Twenty20 Cup at Wantage Road since the competitions inception in 2003. But as is the case with a English summer down came the torrential rain.

After ten days of unbearable heat Northamptonshire like most other parts of the country woke to torrential rain, by midday most of the outfield was covered with puddles, the forecast for the rest of the day was even less encouraging , more rain and plenty of fit.

But this doom and gloom didnít worry the Steelbacks, they are experienced in an even shorter version of the game. After similar conditions last year the Steelbacks and Gladiators took part in the first ever five5 game much to the anger of some fans who would have been happy with getting their ticket money back.

This is the only down side to Twenty20 cricket, the weather. On a perfect summers night there canít be anything better then going to your local cricket ground and buying the customary pint of beer and burger and settle down to watch an absorbing Twenty20 battle.

Rain really screws this up, huddled under tress and umbrellas waiting for a start that gets later and later isnít what the Twenty20 Cup is about, we all know waiting around isnít part of the game.

After much frantic work by the ground staff and after two pitch inspections by umpires Barry Duddleston and Jeff Evans the thumbs up was given and yet another first for the Steelbacks, fourteen14, oh the trend setters!

Once the clouds had parted play was due to start at 18.15, the Steelbacks who were full of confidence won the toss and elected to bat hoping to set another imposing score for the Warwickshire Bears to chase.

The Steelbacks made a slow start with opener Tim Roberts going for 5 with the score on seven, they were bogged down an over later by Dougie Brown who claimed a very rare maiden over before Billy Shafayat and captain David Sales put on a partnership of 72 before Shafayat chased one to many sixes and departed for 31.

Three balls later Sales followed Shafayat back to the pavilion after he was clean bowled for 36 by Nick Carter with the score on 80, new batsman Ben Phillips brought up the Steelbacks 100 with a huge six. Damien Wright occupied the crease for 8 balls before Ian Bell caught him of the bowling of Dougie Brown for 13.

Ufman Afzaal supported Ben Phillips in the closing stages before Phillips went for 21 off the first ball of the final over, it was left to Afzaal to see the Steelbacks setting the Bears a target of 144 to win.

The Warwickshire Bears reply got off to a disastrous start as Damien Wright bowled Neil Carter first ball. Nick Knight was dismissed in the next over by Johan Louw and the Bears found themselves deep in trouble with the score on only 8.

Ian Bell, who 24 hours earlier had watch Englandís defeat by the Aussies at Chester Le-Street almost became Wrights second victim but David Salesbat second slip failed to reach Bells slightest of glances before Jim Troughton added to the Bears problems by becoming Steffan Jonesís fist wicket of the night with the score on 25 thanks to an excellent catch by keeper Wessels.

After a last ball defeat at New Road on Wednesday night chances of victory looked mighty slim by the time Ian Bell gave Billy Shafayat a simple catch off the bowling of Jones with the score on 57, the Bears who made it to the inaugural Twenty20 final in 2003 were now facing another Twenty20 defeat in the space 48 hours.

In between the streakers the Bears lost another a wicket and by the time Ben Phillips cleaned bowled Lourdon for 1 there was only going to be one winning with the Bears requiring 72 off 24 balls.

Ben Phillips claimed another three wickets in the final over to seal victory for the Steelbacks.

After two games the Steelbacks find themselves topping the group and must feel confident of qualifying for the quarter finals while the Bears hope of returning to the finals day seem a distant dream.

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