Birmingham Phoenix 140 for 9 (Wade 81, Crane 4-24) beat London Spirit 139 for 6 (Bopara 45, Helm 4-17) by one wicket
The Australian wicketkeeper-bat thrashed two sixes and 11 fours in 42 balls to help lead his side to an unlikely victory, despite being eighth man out. Phoenix had needed to win in 73 balls to lift their net run rate above Spirit’s and take them in to Friday’s playoff game at the Ageas Bowl, although ending the season on ten points means they could still sneak through in the even of a tie – or a no-result – in Wednesday’s match between Manchester Originals and Oval Invincibles at Old Trafford.
Consolation for Spirit is despite defeat they will contest the eliminator on Friday for a chance to take on Trent Rockets in the final.
Spirit needing to win by 36 runs or more to go straight to the final as group winners found runs hard to come by for much of their innings. Zak Crawley, back from Test duty with England, led a charmed life, successfully reviewing after being given out caught behind on nought and surviving again when Sangha bowled him off a no-ball. However, his luck run out when the impressive Helm pinned him lbw for 20.
Helm had already bowled Adam Rossington for 6 and conceded just three singles from his opening 15 balls as the hosts struggled for any momentum.
McDermott briefly threatened to break the shackles, hitting Moeen Ali for the day’s first six, only to then hit the offspinner straight to cover and when Eoin Morgan went cheaply Spirit were 74 for 4 with 28 balls left. However, Bopara changed the momentum, slog-sweeping successive sixes off Benny Howell as 21 came from one set of five. The former England allrounder hit five sixes in all before Helm had him caught on the fence in the final set of the innings.
Phoenix made the worst possible start when debutant Sol Budinger, drafted in as cover for the injured Liam Livingstone, lofted Dawson’s second ball to Crawley in the deep. And Dawson made it a dream start for the hosts when he castled the dangerous Will Smeed later in that set.
Moeen and Wade led a counterattack with a flurry of boundaries, yet the rate required rose and the former succumbed when hitting Jordan Thompson into the hands of mid-on. Dawson then returned immediately after the powerplay to remove Chris Benjamin for a duck.
Wade though continued to swing, majestically sending a Nathan Ellis delivery into the Tavern’s top tier, but still the chances of the quick win Phoenix needed receded. He dropped by Ellis off Brad Wheal on 44 and celebrated with six to go to 50 in 24 balls. When he finally holed out Spirit were favourites, but Sangha and Helm produced a last twist in a great advert for the format.