Vitality Blast
Fri 16 July, 18:30

Edgbaston, Birmingham

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Worcestershire Rapids

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Blast Report: Bears v Rapids

Birmingham Bears kept alive their hopes of Vitality Blast qualification with a 17-run victory over arch-rivals Worcestershire Rapids at Edgbaston. 

Victory would have secured the Rapids a quarter-final place but they now have work still do to, against Leicestershire Foxes at Leicester on Sunday. The Bears, meanwhile, must beat Northamptonshire Steelbacks at home and hope that other results go their way. 

After choosing to bat, the Bears made 169 for five thanks to Sam Hain’s classy unbeaten 83 from 53 balls (eight fours, two sixes). Bizarrely overlooked by England’s selectors recently, Hain batted beautifully in an unbroken sixth-wicket stand of 106 in 67 balls with Carlos Brathwaite (52 not out, 38 balls, two fours, three sixes). 

The Rapids reply fell short at 152 for six. Jake Libby top-scored with 36 from 34 balls, but the pursuit  never properly escaped the shackles imposed by the spin of Danny Briggs (4-0-18-2). 

The loss of early wickets has been a recurring problem for the Bears through the group stage and it recurred again as they lost both openers in the first eight balls when Ben Dwarshuis and Dillon Pennington shattered the stumps of Ed Pollock and Adam Hose respectively. 

Pennington struck again in his second over when Will Rhodes chopped to short third man. Kyle Mayers, making his debut, lifted Ed Barnard for six but perished trying to repeat the shot when he found only long on.  

When Rob Yates chipped a return catch to Brett D’Oliveira it was 63 for five but Hain and Brathwaite counter-attacked with verve and 40 from a furious assault in the last two overs gave their bowlers something to work with. 

The Rapids then also lost both openers cheaply as D’Oliveira was bowled by Briggs and Jack Haynes lifted the spinner to deep mid-wicket. 

Daryl Mitchell (29, 21 balls) and Libby rebuilt shrewdly with a stand of 53 in 39 balls before both perished trying to up the run-rate. Mitchell pulled Craig Miles to Hose on the rope and Miles was then the catcher when Libby heaved Rhodes to leg.  

Ben Cox reverse-swept Jake Lintott to short third man and Ed Barnard’s dangerous cameo ended when Miles plucked out his middle stump.  A target of 29 from the last two overs proved well beyond the Pears after the first of those overs, from Brathwaite, cost just six. 

Blast Preview: Bears v Rapids

Birmingham Bears welcome some big players back into the squad for the vital Vitality Blast derby against Worcestershire Rapids at Edgbaston tomorrow.

For a match the Bears must win to retain a chance of qualifying for the quarter-finals, they will have Carlos Brathwaite and Danny Briggs back after Covid and international duty respectively. West Indies all-rounder Kyle Mayers is also available to make his belated debut after a Covid-related absence.

Victory over the Rapids would keep the pot boiling for Sunday when Chris Woakes will be available for the final group game, at home to Northamptonshire Steelbacks.

The Bears’ fate is not entirely in their own hands. In a scramble with the Rapids, Durham and Lancashire Lightning for the two remaining available qualification spots, they will need to win both their games and then for other results to fall their way.

All they can do is control what they can control and win their last two games which are, says first team coach Mark Robinson, ‘do or die.’

“We have two games to come and they are two cup finals in many ways,” he said. “They are do or die games and if we win both of them we’ll have a good chance of going through. Two wins is the goal.

“We have had the stuffing knocked out of us a little bit during the tournament in terms of personnel. Things hit different teams at different times and sometimes you can be lucky but we have been hit on the bowling front. That has made it hard and we had Jake Bethell and Rob Yates bowling in the powerplay last Friday. What that does mean is you get some learning into some players.

Mark Robinson

“Our bowling resources have been hit but we haven’t batted well enough in T20 in the last couple of weeks, that’s a fact. But we will have some experienced players back for tomorrow and it is a big game and a local derby which gives it even more spice.”

The Rapids know that victory tomorrow would secure their qualification, but a win for the Bears would open the equation right up going into the last round of games on Sunday.

Tomorrow’ match will be the 33rd meeting of the old rivals in T20, the Bears having won 17 to the Rapids’ 15.

Pollock: "We will have some big players back who know how to win big games"

The Bears face a huge Vitality Blast home double-header this weekend, knowing they must beat Worcestershire Rapids (tomorrow) and Northamptonshire Steelbacks (Sunday) to stand a chance of qualifying from the North Group.

Two wins would take them to seven in the group stage, the number of victories widely considered as necessary to bring qualification. This year that might not be enough and the Bears would also need other results to go their way.

The equation is not how they would choose it to be, but they have been dependant on other results before and come through, most spectacularly in 2012 when they won the tournament.

Opening batsman Ed Pollock believes the Bears are capable of doing their bit – and rising to the challenge of winning five games on the bounce.

“We will have some big players back this weekend, guys who know how to win big games, and have just got to look at it as a five-game challenge,” he said. “Effectively, we are in the knockout stage early. Instead of winning the quarter, semi and final, we have got to win our last two group games as well. That is not beyond us.

“In 2017, we won our last three games to qualify and when you do that you go forward with real momentum behind you. We need other results to fall right for us but when the Bears won the Blast in 2014, we needed to win the last group game and then another result to go our way for us to qualify. It all came together and the rest is history.

Ed Pollock

“At the start of the group, the general thinking was that seven wins would probably be enough and we are within reach of that. We have just got to concentrate on what we do and affect what we can affect.”

The Bears will face their old rivals tonight having been well-beaten by them in the Blast at New Road last Friday but then secured a strong draw there in the championship this week to seal a top-two finish in Group A.

“We have just had a really good performance against them in the championship to secure a top two finish so let’s carry on that momentum and take it forward,” said Pollock. “It was a disappointing night last Friday but Carlos Brathwaite spoke really well at the start of the tournament and said in T20 there will be games where you get embarrassed. What matters is how you respond to them.”

Briggs: It is a big game, a crucial game and a local derby

Must-win is an overused term in sport, often being applied to games which it would be handy to win but from which defeat is recoverable.

But it properly applies to tomorrow night’s game for the Bears. They know they must win it, and also Sunday’s final group game at home to Northamptonshire Steelbacks, to preserve their chance of qualifying for the last eight.

Even then they would need other results to go their way, but two victories would give them a decent chance and they are boosted by the return of some big players. Briggs is back after his England call-up and West Indies pair Carlos Brathwaite and Kyle Mayers are available tomorrow following Covid-related absences while Chris Woakes will play against the Steelbacks on Sunday.

Against the Rapids at Edgbaston tomorrow, it will be a much more experienced side than that beaten at New Road last Friday – and Briggs, whose spin bowling has been at the heart of the Bears bowling strategy all summer, can’t wait.

“I am champing at the bit, as they say,” he said. “It is a big game, a crucial game and a local derby with all tickets sold, just the sort of game you love to play in. I’m really looking forward to getting back in the thick of it with the Bears and I know Carlos is too.

“As a team we have struggled for consistency in T20 of late, but I think having the break from it for the four-day game this week will have helped us. The lads rounded off the championship group brilliantly to finish in the top two and now we have some players back so we can’t wait for the game to arrive tomorrow.

Danny Briggs

“We have played some good T20 cricket during the group. We haven’t been consistent enough but know we can beat anyone on our day.

“Some other results will have to go our way for us to qualify, but we just have to close our minds to that and do our jobs well. Our last two games are at home, which is an advantage. They are two big games and we will have big crowds behind us and we have to make that count.”

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