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Shafali Verma’s hitting inspires Birmingham Phoenix to first win in four

Imran Tahir claimed the first hat-trick of The Hundred as Birmingham Phoenix went joint top of the table with Trent Rockets after a 93-run win over Welsh Fire.

Leg-spinner Tahir finished with five for 25 after dismissing Ahmad Qais, Matt Milnes and David Payne with the last three deliveries as Fire were bowled out for 91.

Opener Will Smeed – at 19 the youngest player in the men’s competition – had finished unbeaten on 65 from 38 balls after Moeen Ali smashed 59 off just 28 as Phoenix posted 184 for five, the highest team total in The Hundred so far.

David Payne took three for 38 from his 20 balls but Ali hit five sixes and Smeed four, Liam Livingstone weighing in with two more in his 31 from 19 balls.

After Fire had won the toss, Phoenix’s powerplay of 35 for one looked a shade modest, but Ali’s assault changed that.

A disdainful six into The Hollies off Luke Fletcher preceded one straight down the ground off Ahmad, then an extraordinary set of six-wide-wide-six-six-four-wide-one as he took Graeme White apart.

He went past 50 from 23 balls and there was disappointment in the crowd as he departed as Jimmy Neesham mixed things up. Ali put the ball straight into the hands of Ian Cockbain at long-on.

Livingstone was caught at deep cover by Glenn Phillips, who had put him down off Ahmad in the previous over on 19. Smeed’s fifty came from 29 balls with his third six.

Moeen Ali powered his way to 59 and may be recalled to the England Test team this week.
Moeen Ali powered his way to 59 and may be recalled to the England Test team this week. Photograph: Nigel Parker/Shutterstock

Fletcher’s final set went for only two singles and Payne dismissed Chris Benjamin and Benny Howell but Milnes undid the fightback by conceding 17 at the death, Sneed finishing with a six off a full toss.

Needing 1.85 runs per ball, Fire lost Tom Banton without scoring, pinned by Adam Milne’s yorker. They pushed on to be 41 for one from 25 after Ben Duckett slog-swept Tahir and Cockbain took a couple of boundaries off Pat Brown but then Duckett made a hash of a ramp as Benny Howell took the pace off and was bowled.

Phillips launched Tahir for a huge blow over deep midwicket but Ali’s decision to keep the wrist spinner on for a full 10 paid off handsomely as Phillips skewed him straight to cover – Ali taking the catch. New man Leus Du Plooy also miscued, Tahir himself peddling back to get under it, leaving Fire 55 for four from 40.

Fire had no choice but to swing the bat but very little came off. Cockbain, Neesham and White holed out before Tahir returned to have Ahmad caught at mid-off, trapping Milnes in front and bowling Payne, the exuberant spinner celebrating with virtually a lap of honour.

Earlier, Shafali Verma found her form in the women’s Hundred with a brilliant unbeaten 76 as Phoenix ended a run of three straight defeats with a thumping 10-wicket over Fire. The victory, with 24 balls to spare, just about kept their hopes of qualifying for the later stages alive.

The precociously talented 17-year-old, who made 96 and 63 on her Test debut against England in June, struck two sixes and nine fours from just 42 deliveries. Verma was so much in control that she was able to hand centre-stage to her partner Eve Jones in the later stages, allowing the 29-year-old left-hander to claim her first half-century of the competition.

Bryony Smith registered her best score in the competition with 38 from 36 balls, including five fours and a six over wide long on but Fire’s next best score was 19 and their 127 for nine always looked a little under-par on a good pitch.

The result left them level on four points with Phoenix going into the last two fixtures.

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