|Men’s Hundred, Edgbaston|
|Birmingham Phoenix 184-5 (100 balls): Smeed 65* (38), Moeen 59 (28); Payne 3-38|
|Welsh Fire 91 all out (74 balls): Tahir 5-25, Howell 2-12|
|Phoenix won by 93 runs|
The youngest and oldest player in the men’s Hundred combined to sensational effect as Birmingham Phoenix went top of the table with an emphatic 93-run victory over Welsh Fire at Edgbaston.
Imran Tahir, who is the oldest player in the competition at 42, took the tournament’s first hat-trick to wrap up a dismal Fire innings – naturally ending in a trademark lap of honour round the Edgbaston outfield – to finish with figures of 5-25.
That was after the youngest player in the tournament – 19-year-old Will Smeed – smoked an unbeaten 65 off 38 balls as Phoenix smashed their way to 184-5, the highest score in the tournament.
Smeed was ably supported by captain Moeen Ali, who made a blistering 28-ball 59 and hit three successive sixes off Graeme White, in front of a sell-out Edgbaston crowd of almost 18,000.
Fire, who are now all-but eliminated, never got going in their reply – losing regular wickets throughout as they slipped to 91 all out from just 74 balls.
Phoenix, who started the night in fifth, climb above Trent Rockets on net run-rate while Welsh Fire are seventh.
Tahir stars as Phoenix win big
Tahir, who made his first-class debut five years before Smeed was born, was picked up by Manchester Originals in the original draft in November 2019, but was released when teams were able to re-draft as a result of the pandemic.
The Phoenix can probably barely believe they were able to pick up a man with 293 international wickets.
He had already claimed the big wicket of Glenn Phillips, a man who possesses the power to take a game away from a side, and Leus du Plooy.
But the hat-trick that followed was absolute theatre. Here’s how it played out:
- Ball 72: Afghanistan spinner Qais Ahmad tries to hit over the top but chips straight to mid-off (cue Tahir racing round the ground in celebration part one)
- Ball 73: The quicker one from Tahir and it skids through and hits Adam Milnes plumb in front (cue Tahir racing round the ground in celebration part two)
- Ball 74: The googly, and the ball goes in between the bat and pad of number 11 David Payne (cue Tahir racing round the ground in celebration part three)
What a player. What a night!
‘I just stand there and whack it’
Smeed was a late call-up for the Phoenix, and he didn’t feature in their opening three games.
Since he’s come in he has scored 43 off 23 balls, a 28-ball 45, before tonight’s 65. Not bad, eh?
The maths and economic undergraduate started like a tracer bullet – racing to 23 off 11 balls – before allowing Moeen to attack.
He showed maturity and a calm head beyond his years to rotate the strike, and that allowed him to be there at the end to capitalise – flicking the penultimate ball through square leg for a one-bounce four, before sending the last ball about 25 rows back.
Speaking in the interval, Smeed told Sky Sports: “It was great fun.
“I’m not too good at all the fancy stuff, so at the moment I just stand there and whack it.”
Are Phoenix the all-round package?
Birmingham Phoenix are a side on the charge. Two defeats followed an opening-game victory, but three successive wins has propelled them top of the tree.
They are power-packed at the top with Smeed, New Zealand’s Finn Allen and England duo Moeen and Liam Livingstone possessing the ability to clear the ropes with ease.
One might get you, two might get you, but the third or fourth will. Today, it was Moeen and Smeed who did the damage, with both hitting rapid half-centuries, and nine sixes between them.
They have quality in the middle order with Miles Hammond, Chris Benjamin – who has already guided Phoenix home twice – and Benny Howell.
With the ball they’ve got the express pace of Adam Milne – who has taken eight wickets and been towards of the top of the tournament’s MVP standings throughout.
That combined with the canny spin of Moeen and Tahir, and the variations of Howell and Pat Brown, makes Phoenix a formidable proposition.
It will take a good side to stop them – but they will be hoping England don’t come calling for Moeen, which head coach Chris Silverwood said was a possibility ahead of the second Test against India at Lord’s.
On a possible call-up, Moeen said: “Of course if you get the call-up, then playing for England is the highest thing you can get. If I get the call then I’ll be available.
“It’s a win-win for me, things are going really well for me here and the team.”