On NHS Heroes Night in Birmingham, with workers and support staff invited along as a thank you for their brilliant work, a 14,000 crowd was royally entertained as Smeed blazed an unbeaten 101 off 50 balls to lift his side to 176 for four. The Brave replied with a paltry 123 all out as Brookes enjoyed a dream debut on the ground he has always called home.
His five wicket haul included two excellent catches as Phoenix banked their first victory of the campaign and handed James Vince's side their first defeat in nine matches.
After Phoenix were put in, they leaned heavily on Smeed after Chris Benjamin, promoted to open, and Moeen Ali each raced to 17 but then perished. Benjamin sent up a skier off Marcus Stoinis before Ali, having lifted George Garton deep into the crowd at midwicket, chopped James Fuller's first ball on to his stumps. Smeed galloped to a 25-ball half-century, reached with six over long-off off Jake Lintott in a stand of 80 in 44 balls with Liam Livingstone. Livingstone never really hit his stride, scoring just two from his first seven balls and 21 from 20 before lifting Lintott to extra cover. Into the last 10 balls, the big question was could Smeed complete his ton? He needed five from the last three and a four and a two took him to the magical mark from 49 balls. Phoenix set about defending their total with an increasingly depleted seam attack, Adam Milne having joined Matt Fisher, Chris Woakes and Olly Stone on the absentee list. But Kane Richardson soon stepped up, bowling Vince with his first delivery after the Brave captain had smacked Ali for 16 in three balls in the first set. Richardson conceded just a single from his first five balls and Phoenix struck again when Stoinis was brilliantly caught by Brookes at short fine-leg off Tom Helm. Brookes followed that up in sensational style by striking with his second, 10th, 13th, 15th and 17th balls. Quinton de Kock sent back a return catch, Tim David lifted to deep square-leg, Alex Davies was bowled through an attempted scoop for 33 and Fuller and Garton were pinned lbw. Brookes had not quite finished. At 108 for seven, Brave's one sliver of remaining hope lay in some pyrotechnics from the big-hitting Ross Whiteley, but when he blasted Benny Howell to long leg, Brookes made no mistake and Richardson then cleaned up the tail.
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