Welsh Fire 173 for 4 (Bairstow 56, Duckett 41) beat Northern Superchargers 168 for 7 (Brook 62, Ahmad 4-13) by 5 runs
A blistering half-century to Jonny Bairstow capped by a devastating bowling performance from Afghanistan legspinner Qais Ahmad delivered Welsh Fire a nail-biting five-run victory over Northern Superchargers in their Hundred clash at Emerald Headingley.
Harry Brook launched a valiant rescue mission after the hosts had stumbled to 50 for 4 inside the first half of their sizeable run chase. He nearly pulled it off with a knock of 62 from just 31 balls which was every bit as impressive as Bairstow's.
Having seen Jemimah Rodrigues rack up a jaw-dropping 92 not out off 43 on the same excellent batting track in the afternoon match - the highest score across the men's and women's competitions so far - Bairstow would doubtless have wanted to press on. But, even though they only have him for the first two matches before he reports for England Test duty, Welsh Fire won't have any complaints.
The crowd swelled from the 5026 for the afternoon match between the women's sides, won by Superchargers on the back of Rodrigues' innings, to 10,324 for the men. The relative lack of students in fancy dress suggested the throngs in the pubs lining the route to the ground at lunchtime had decided to stay put. But the largely civilian-clad fans in attendance were in strong voice, quietened briefly when Ben Stokes fell cheaply, but whipped into song by Brook's charge.
If you could only write one player's name on the Hundred, Bairstow would have to be right up there in lights and, in his first outing of the tournament, he lived up to that billing with an explosive innings that included five fours and three sixes.
He launched David Willey over wide mid-off for six on the 11th ball of the match and then hit Willey's next two deliveries for four. He drove Mujeeb Ur Rahman past a diving Stokes at mid-off for another four and then pummelled Brydon Carse into the fifth row over deep midwicket. Bairstow brought up his fifty off 28 balls with a mammoth six off Mujeeb that sailed into the stands 20 rows back over deep midwicket.
Stokes, captaining in place of the absent Faf du Plessis, brought himself on and made the breakthrough with his third legitimate delivery, a back-of-a-length ball which Bairstow pulled straight to Willey at deep midwicket. Ben Duckett got in on the act with 41 off 27 balls, including six fours. Combined with Jimmy Neesham's unbeaten 30 off 11 balls and Glenn Phillips' 23 off 14 - including two sixes, the first of which he powered off Adil Rashid high into the stand cleared by Liam Livingstone in the T20I last weekend - they helped push Fire to what was comfortably the highest total of the competition to date.
Brook no challengers
Brook had been in fine touch for Yorkshire this season with a Championship century and seven scores above 40 in his last eight T20 matches at Headingley. On this occasion, he clattered five sixes and three fours to keeper the Superchargers in the hunt.
Brook shared a 68-run stand with Tom Kohler-Cadmore, in the side after recovering from a broken finger which kept him out of much of Yorkshire's Blast campaign. When Kohler-Cadmore was run out on the 74th ball, Superchargers still needed 55 runs to win and Brook didn't stop. In the next set of five, he picked off another four and a six off Liam Plunkett, who had bowled with good pace in his first pro game for nine months but was expensive.
Brook's impressive effort ended however, when he was trapped lbw by Ahmad, two balls after the same bowler had John Simpson holing out to Ian Cockbain at long-on during a frenetic passage of play in which Carse also survived a drop and failed run-out attempt by Matt Critchley.
Superchargers needed 11 off the last set of five but Jake Ball held his nerve, despite copping a hefty blow to the heel of his hand as Matty Potts struck the penultimate ball back at him with force. Carse managed just one off the last ball instead of the six needed to tie and Fire prevailed.
Qais on song
Welsh Fire accounted for both Superchargers openers in the space of five balls, Adam Lyth spooning Critchley straight to Tom Banton at cover after a short and sweet 25 off 14 and Chris Lynn caught by Ian Cockbain off Ahmad for a run-a-ball 11.
Ball then had Stokes caught by Phillips at deep cover for just 5 and when Willey's attempted drive off Ahmad resulted in a low edge to Critchley at backward point, he was forced to walk off to a blast of "Where's Your Head At" by Basement Jaxx and Superchargers were in terrible trouble.
Just 20 years old, Ahmad ended with 4 for 13 off 20 balls - Stokes was the only other bowler to concede less than a run a ball - his early dismissal of opener Lynn and his role in ending Brook's innings proving pivotal.