Bethell blasts 15-ball fifty as Bears beat Northants

Jacob Bethell
Jacob Bethell clubbed three fours and seven sixes for the Bears in his 56 off just 16 balls [Getty Images]

Jacob Bethell hit the second fastest half-century in the 22-year history of English domestic T20 cricket as Birmingham Bears hammered Northants Steelbacks by 90 runs to move level with Lancashire Lightning on 10 points at the head of North Group.

Bethell's 56 of 16 balls at Edgbaston was the fastest ever by a Bears player - and also a ground record - but it was just one delivery too many to equal South African Gerard Brophy's competition record off 14 balls for Yorkshire against Derbyshire in 2006.

Lancashire stay top on faster run-rate, despite suffering a third defeat of the competition, in the cross-Pennines derby with Yorkshire.

In the South Group, Surrey go back top after inflicting a 13th straight T20 home defeat on Middlesex - a run now stretching back more than two years.

Leg-spinner Luke Hollman took 5-16 for Middlesex to give them hope but Aussie paceman Sean Abbott responded with 5-18 for Surrey.

North Group - Brilliant Bethel inspires Bears

After impetus at the start of the innings from Ed Barnard, with a T20-best 48, and skipper Al Davies (36) in an 80-run opening stand, Dan Mousley also weighed in with 43 off 29 balls before Bethell took over late on to lift the Bears to a season high of 219-4.

His 16-ball knock - including seven sixes - was described by BBC Radio WM's Richard Wilford as an "other worldly half-century of pure range hitting".

Bethell said he "wasn't really looking at the scoreboard too much. I was just trying to watch the ball and hit it."

"I put in a lot of work over the winter which I spent over here rather than going away," he told BBC Radio WM.

"And I think that work is paying off. Practice creates confidence and I am playing with a lot of confidence."

After two early wickets for miserly England paceman Richard Gleeson, who averages less than five runs an over in this competition in 2024, Northants folded to 129-9 to lose by 90 runs.

The downside for the Bears, ahead of Friday's Midlands derby at Worcester, was a side strain for Gleeson, which further depletes their bowling options, having rested England all-rounder Chris Woakes.

Yorkshire had a 104-run stand between skipper Shan Masood (61) and former England captain Joe Root (43) to thank for posting a competitive 173-8 against Lancashire.

Saqib Mahmood took three wickets, but spinner Chris Green was the pick, taking 2-21 from his four overs.

Lancs might a bright start but then slipped from 67-2 in the eighth over to 88-5 by the 11th before failing to hit 20 off the last over in closing on 166-8 to lose by seven runs.

South Group - Surrey back on top

Surrey climbed back to top spot as they successfully defended a total of 185 against London rivals Middlesex at Lord's.

It looked as if the hosts might have a chance when, despite 48 from Tom Curran and Laurie Evans' 41 off 20, they limited Surrey to 185-9.

That was thanks to Hollman's career-best in all three formats, including three wickets in one over. But Surrey had a five-star performer of their own in Abbott, whose five-for included wickets with successive balls as the hosts finished on 129-8 to lose by 56 runs.

The earliest finish of the evening came at Sophia Gardens where Josh Shaw came in at number 10 to win the game for Gloucestershire against Glamorgan with eight runs off the last two deliveries - being dropped in the deep before hitting a six off the final ball.

Chasing the hosts' 140-6, set up largely by an unbeaten 46 from Sam Northeast, the visitors faltered to 45-5. But Jack Taylor’s 70 from 48 balls got Gloucestershire back into it before three dropped catches in the last three overs proved costly for the hosts.

Taylor was run out in the last over to seemingly end his side's hopes but Northeast dropped Shaw off the penultimate ball to give him the chance to hit that match-winning six.

“It was a bit surreal really," said Shaw. "Obviously, it had to go for six and I knew I had got it all but you are never quite sure when you’re down at number 10."

Middlesex legspinner Luke Hollman
Middlesex leggie Luke Hollman took a career-best 5-16 against Surrey at Lord's [Getty Images]

Sussex made it five wins out of seven at Hove as they won by 31 runs against Kent, who slumped to a fourth straight defeat.

Harrison Ward hit 61 as Sussex closed on 201-7, but Zak Crawley was bowled by Ollie Robinson for four in the opening over – the England opener’s sixth consecutive failure to reach double figures.

And Kent fell well short on 170-7, despite 51 from skipper Sam Billings.

Essex, the 2019 winners, eased to a comfortable home win over three-times T20 champions Hampshire to make it four victories out of seven in this year's competition.

South African Dean Elgar hit 60 not out, backed by Michael Pepper (44 off 24) and Jorgan Cox's unbeaten 41, as Essex made 170-2.

Hampshire had earlier posted 166-7, thanks largely to Joe Weatherley (48) and James Fuller's late flurry of 39 off16.

Friday's matches

North Group

Chester-le-Street: Durham v Yorkshire

Wantage Road: Northants v Leicestershire

Trent Bridge: Notts v Derbyshire

Worcester: Worcestershire v Warwickshire

South Group

Bristol: Gloucestershire v Somerset

Southampton: Hampshire v Sussex

Canterbury: Kent v Essex

The Oval: Surrey v Glamorgan