sport

Bears blast to T20 title

Birmingham Bears powered to NatWest T20 glory on home soil at Edgbaston, beating Lancashire by four runs in the final.

Laurie Evans smashed 53 off 30 balls, including four sixes, as the Bears piled up 181-5 after opting to bat first.

And Lancashire finished just short on 177-8 in reply, despite the best efforts of Karl Brown (55) and Andrew Flintoff, who almost scripted a late turnaround with two sixes in his 20 not out ensuring the game went down to the final ball.

With Stephen Parry on strike, Lancashire required six but Chris Woakes (2-34) conceded just a single to seal Birmingham's maiden T20 title, the first part of a potential domestic treble this season.

Flintoff, who ended a five-year retirement to make a T20 comeback this season, was drafted into Lancashire's final team to replace Kabir Ali, who injured himself during the semi-final win over Hampshire.

The 36-year-old all-rounder made an instant impact, dismissing his former England team-mate Ian Bell (4) with his first delivery after being brought on for the third over.

Bell was caught by Karl Brown running back from mid-on but Birmingham skipper Varun Chopra (30) and Will Porterfield (31) responded with a second-wicket stand of 45 off 25 deliveries.

Evans built on that with some big hitting as the innings progressed, Lancashire's England seamer James Anderson coming in for particular punishment during four wicketless overs costing 52 runs.

All of Lancashire's top order made starts and Brown, at No 4, kept them in contention with four sixes in his 55 off 28 balls.

But he was yorked by Woakes to leave 30 still needed from 13 deliveries, a task that Flintoff reduced to 14 from the final over thanks to back-to-back sixes to end an otherwise impressive spell from Oliver Hannon-Dalby (3-31).

Woakes was on target at the end, limiting Flintoff and Parry (4no) to ones and twos and ensuring Lancashire's wait for a T20 title continues.

Birmingham had earlier seen off Surrey by 16 runs in the first semi-final.