Jonny Bairstow signed off from The Hundred in style with a pulsating 72 off 39 balls as Welsh Fire won their second game in a row, with this latest win sealed by Jimmy Neesham's special spell of bowling...
STORY OF THE MATCH
Jonny Bairstow cracked his second straight Hundred half-century as his superb 72 and Jimmy Neesham's three wickets for five runs from 15 balls took Welsh Fire to victory over winless Southern Brave, who have now lost two from two.
Fire captain Bairstow - playing his final game before linking up with the England Test team - had struggled to get going early on and was on 26 from 25 balls but then took off, nailing 44 from his final 14 deliveries as the home side posted 165 from their 100 balls in Cardiff having been 86-1 after 67.
Ben Duckett (53 off 34) played his part in a scintillating stand with Bairstow of 116 from 63 balls, while Tom Banton blazed 34 from 23 balls at the top of the order after Fire were inserted by Brave.
Brave made a rapid start to the chase with Quinton de Kock (21 off 7) and James Vince (40 off 27) and were 40-0 after 14 balls and 85-1 after 50 balls.
But Fire battled back, principally through Neesham, who dismissed Vince and then took two wickets in a five-ball spell late on that went for only one run as Brave ended on 147-7.
- Scorecard: Welsh Fire vs Southern Brave
- Fire vs Brave - as it happened ball-by-ball
- The Hundred - latest standings
Bairstow had his heart in his mouth on 10 when he pulled Craig Overton to deep square. Ross Whiteley rolled out the full-length dive but was just unable to cling on to what would probably have been the catch of the tournament so far.
Whiteley would have been happy at saving the four - but as the innings progressed and Bairstow went berserk, he would have been left ruing not taking the catch, as difficult as it might have been to execute.
Bairstow - who hit 56 off 36 balls against Northern Superchargers on Saturday night - completed back-to-back fifties in The Hundred from 32 deliveries amid four boundaries in five balls off Colin de Grandhomme.
Later in the night, Vince - who has been in electric form both internationally and domestically of late - looked like he could go on to trump Bairstow's score but then holed out off Neesham with Brave needing 74 from 46 balls.
With Devon Conway out in the previous set of five balls and De Grandhomme out in the next, Brave's race looked run.
Whiteley - who would have been run out on two but for a Bairstow fumble - kept Brave in the hunt with 25 off 14 balls but when he chopped Neesham back onto his stumps, that really was it.
FIRE'S HEAVY HITTERS AND TIGHT BOWLERS
They will be one down on power hitters from here on in with Bairstow now departing for Test math duty with England but what a batting line-up Fire have!
Banton ignited early on on Tuesday night, going six, six, four off spinner Danny Briggs during the first five balls and then clubbing the speedy Tymal Mills for three fours between balls 21 and ball 25.
Duckett, meanwhile, is strong, wristy and innovative, with one passage of play seeing him sweep, or reverse sweep, Brave left-arm wrist-spinner Jake Lintott for four fours in a row.
The Welsh team got up to 165 with Glenn Phillips, Neesham, Ian Cockbain, Matt Critchley and Josh Cobb getting a short hit or no hit at all. The depth in the Cardiff team is remarkable.
Bowling-wise, they have the spin of Afghanistan's Qais Ahmad and with Neesham, Jake Ball - whose 20 balls went for just 21 runs - and David Payne impressing in the seam department, can Fire make a push for the title?
POINT OF DIFFERENCE
Okay, Lintott's figures (1-29 from 15 balls) were dented a little by Duckett but he would have relished the occasion, having perhaps thought high-profile nights like this would not come his way.
𝘽𝘼𝙉𝙏𝙊𝙉 𝙊𝙐𝙏— Sky Sports Cricket (@SkyCricket) July 27, 2021
He was having a great game for the Welsh Fire but Tom Banton is bowled by Jake Lintott after knocking up 34 runs.
The Welsh Fire now have 44 runs from 32 balls 🏏
📺 SS The Hundred 👉 https://t.co/ROvTp3gtdt
📱 Scorecard 👉 https://t.co/vtwnvJtuXP pic.twitter.com/mBCKqCviL2
The 28-year-old was released by Gloucestershire a few years ago but having worked his way back into county cricket with Warwickshire, he was then snapped up by Brave as a wildcard pick shortly before The Hundred.
Brave captain Vince showed tremendous faith in Lintott, giving him 10 balls in a row having seen him dismiss Banton with his first.
Cricket nuts will be hoping Lintott plays a lot more over the coming weeks as you always want something different to enjoy - and an English left-arm wrist-spinner is certainly something different!
WHAT THEY SAID
Welsh Fire captain, Jonny Bairstow: "I love coming to Cardiff. It's an amazing place and the fans are very passionate. I'm sure whoever the next captain is will do a fantastic job. We have a great bunch of guys and everyone is pulling towards the common goal of winning games of cricket.
"It was a game-changing spell from Neesham and exactly what we needed. That's why he is in our side. Last game he got 30 off 10 balls, today he got wickets and didn't concede many runs. I thought the way our boys bowled with a lack of pace suited the pitch better."
The Hundred Live
The Hundred Live
The sides from opposite ends of the Pennines meet on Wednesday with Manchester Originals up against Northern Superchargers at Emirates Old Trafford.
The women's match kicks things off from 2.30pm on Sky Sports The Hundred and the Sky Sports Cricket YouTube channel, with the men then in action from 6pm on Sky Sports The Hundred.
Manchester Originals' women's side and Northern Superchargers' men's team will be looking for their first wins having begun the competition with successive defeats.
Watch The Hundred live on Sky Sports between now and August 21.