T20 Blast: Northants beat Birmingham Bears to reach final
|NatWest T20 Blast semi-final, Edgbaston|
|Birmingham Bears 131-6 (20 overs): Javid 51 not out; Willey 3-30|
|Northants 135-5 (18 overs): Levi 63 not out; Rankin 2-20|
|Northants beat Birmingham Bears by five wickets|
Holders Birmingham Bears were unable to capitalise on home advantage as they were beaten by Northants in the first T20 Blast semi-final at Edgbaston.
David Willey had Birmingham on the back foot early on with three wickets in his first eight balls to leave them 14-4.
Ateeq Javid's maiden T20 half-century off 49 balls helped the Bears reach a creditable 131-6.
But Richard Levi struck 63 off 46 balls as 2013 champions Northants progressed to the final by five wickets.
England limited overs all-rounder Willey, the star of the quarter-final victory against Sussex with a century off 41 balls, proved his value to the Steelbacks once again as he finished with figures of 3-30.
He struck the early and ultimately decisive blows to the Birmingham top-order after Northants captain Alex Wakely won the toss and elected to bowl.
Varun Chopra was trapped leg before to a yorker in the second over before Will Porterfield was bowled two balls later.
Rory Kleinveldt took a sharp return catch from Tim Ambrose before Ashes winner Ian Bell edged to Ben Duckett to give Willey his third victim and Northants the Bears' fourth wicket in just the fourth over.
Javid (51 not out) and Rikki Clarke (41) mounted a recovery with a fifth-wicket partnership of 93 but it was Laurie Evans who gave the innings late impetus by hitting two sixes and a four off Willey as the Bears mustered 18 runs from the final over.
In reply, Levi, who batted throughout the innings, was unflustered by the early loss of opening partner Willey (15) and the rest of his top order as Birmingham sensed a comeback at 95-5 in the 14th over.
But Pakistan all-rounder Shahid Afridi, returning to the Northants side for the first time since the group stages, settled the nerves to finish unbeaten on 19 and help complete victory with 12 balls to spare.