Dominant Luke Wells Leads Lancashire to Victory Over Birmingham Bears in Vitality Blast 2024

Luke Wells’ exceptional performance with both bat and ball led Lancashire Lightning to a crucial victory against Birmingham Bears, securing their position at the summit of the North Group in a gripping Vitality Blast 2024 showdown.

The opener puts the host team on top of the North Group with a 66 off 32 and then goes 2 for 25.

Dominant Luke Wells Leads Lancashire to Victory Over Birmingham Bears in Vitality Blast 2024
Keaton Jennings and Luke Wells went on an 80-run stand. • MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Birmingham Bears 168 for 6 (Hain 59, Wells 2-25) lost against Lancashire 176 for 8 (Wells 66, Hasan 3-47) by eight runs.

Those who set the early pace Luke Wells led Lancashire Lightning to victory over Birmingham Bears at Emirates Old Trafford, helping them maintain their top spot in the embryonic Vitality Blast North Group table.

After Wells opened with a career-high 66 off 32 balls, Lightning simply defended a 177 target to win by eight runs, completing their third victory in four games. Wells also added two catches and returned 2 for 25 with his legspinners.

Despite Sam Hain’s 59 off 44, the Bears lost for the first time in three games, missing the opportunity to pass their hosts for the top spot in the group. They responded to 176 for 8 with 168 for 6.

Including games in which not a ball was bowled, Lancashire has now gone 23 games without losing at Emirates Old Trafford since the conclusion of the summer of 2020. But Surrey did prevail here in the quarter-final last summer. Before dismissing Chris Benjamin to end Birmingham’s innings at 56 for 3, Wells struck five early sixes. This was the eighth over of their chase.

Playing in his 48th Twenty20 international, the tall left-hander blasted three consecutive sixes over midwicket off Pakistani pacer Hassan Ali to start the fourth over, which ended in a 27-run blowout, to light up the early half of Lancashire’s innings.

With just eight runs from the first two overs, Lightning was invited to bat on a used pitch and it provided them important momentum at 47 for 1. Wells took Lancashire to 73 for 1 after six balls, having scored just one off his opening six balls but reaching his fifty off 22.

From 18 for 1 in the third over, he controlled an 80-run stand with captain Keaton Jennings in six overs. However, Bears responded magnificently, taking four wickets for thirty runs, beginning with Jennings being leg-side stumped by left-arm wristspinner Jake Lintott.

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As spin tightened its grip, Lintott also saw captain Alex Davies stump Wells, concluding with 2 for 29, while in the fourteenth over, Danny Briggs dismissed Matty Hurst, Lancashire 128 for 5, with a stunning throw at deep midwicket by George Garton. As the hosts lost momentum, Hasan came back to claim three wickets in the last over, including Luke Wood, Chris Green, and Steven Croft, all of whom were caught in the deep.

Wells’ early fireworks made their score quite competitive, though they felt more like the exception than the rule on this slow surface.

Quicks as lightning Luke Wood and Mitchell Stanley took out the openers Bears were reduced to 23 for 2 in the third over after Rob Yates and Davies, in the span of three balls, were caught at deep square-leg and third, respectively. Trying to slog sweep Wells, Benjamin was then bowled, and Bears were having trouble.

After ten overs, they were 76 for 3, requiring 101 more. Playing his first Twenty20 encounter in over a year after an injury, England’s fringe fast Saqib Mahmood was subsequently caught at long-leg by action-man Wells – 76 for 4 in the eleventh.

The Bears retaliated, just as they had with the ball. Within seven overs, Hain and Jacob Bethell shared 62 runs, with the latter making 33 before being caught behind by Wells.

Bears needed 39 when they were 138 for 5 in the 17th. But then, with 11 balls remaining, Hain, who had already scored the highest score of the season in all forms, hammered Wood to Wells at mid-off, making 147 for 6. That turned out to be crucial, as Mahmood had to defend 24 off the last.

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