Report: Rapids v Bears, Vitality Blast
Birmingham Bears cemented their top-two spot in the Vitality Blast North Group after triumphing by 21 runs in the West Midlands derby with Worcestershire Rapids at New Road.
The Bears were indebted to late hitting from Dan Mousley and Jacob Bethell for setting a challenging target.
Mousley’s unbeaten 49 was his T20 best this summer while Bethell’s 32 not out was his highest in the competition.
Pakistan leg spinner Usama Mir had been re-signed by the Rapids for the remainder of the tournament after Michael Bracewell’s achilles injury and he returned 3-22.
Club Captain Brett D’Oliveira struck his first T20 half century of the season for the Rapids but his side struggled to break free from the Bears spinners.
After winning their opening four games, Worcestershire have now lost four in a row as they suffered another dent to their qualification hopes.
Worcestershire handed a first T20 appearance of the season to all-rounder Matthew Waite while batter Adam Hose faced his former team-mates for the first time since moving to New Road on a three year contract.
Ex-Worcestershire all-rounder Ed Barnard was recalled to the Bears side but key batter Sam hain was ruled out with a hamstring injury.
Bears were put into bat and openers Alex Davies and Rob Yates gave them a flying start.
Yates top-edged Dillon Pennington for a huge six over keeper Ben Cox and then Davies was successful with a scoop shot off Pat Brown to bring up the half century in 5.1 overs.
But Brown made the first breakthrough in the same over when Davies slashed hard to Hose at point. Usama came into the attack and struck in his first over when Yates came down the wicket and was stumped by Ben Cox.
Glenn Maxwell was quickly into his stride with a reverse sweep for six off D’Oliveira but soon perished at long on to give Mir a second scalp.
Benjamin and Mousley added 51 in 6.2 overs before the former was run out attempting a second run after turning D’Oliveira to deep square leg.
Barnard got off the mark with a boundary first ball but on seven tried to sweep Mir in his final over and was lbw.
But some destructive hitting from Bethell and Mousley produced 51 runs from 3.1 overs to lift the final total close to 200. Bears then made early inroads into the Rapids batting line-up.
Ed Pollock was restored to the top of the order after Bracewell’s injury and off drove the first delivery from Hasan Ali for four.
But the former Bears left hander was taken at mid off in the second over from Maxwell and then Jack Haynes was caught down the legside to the first ball of Henry Brookes spell
D’Oliveira got the scoreboard moving with a scoop and cover-drive for successive boundaries at Brookes expense and back to back fours from the Rapids skipper brought up the 50 in 5.2 overs.
Hose, who left Edgbaston to play more red ball cricket, continued his recent good form and added 78 in 8.1 overs with D’Oliveira.
But Barnard brought about his downfall with his second delivery as Hose could only pick out Maxwell at deep mid wicket.
Worcestershire found it hard to get away the Bears spinners as the run rate climbed over 13 an over.
D’Oliveira completed a half century from 37 balls with one six and five fours but was stumped off Jake Lintott without addition to his score.
Santner could only find long off when attempting a big hit against Maxwell and, despite a late flurry of runs from Usama, the Bears ran out comfortable winners.
Mousley said: “It was lovely to come here and get two points. We’ve had a round of Championship fixtures and to come back to T20 is lovely and to come away with a win, we are over the moon.
“All I was thinking was how would Sam Hain go about things in this situation and I took it upon my shoulders and thought ‘I’m going to try and play that knock that Hainy usually produces.’
“He texted me yesterday and said ‘we need a match winner’ and I said I’ll try my best to do it’. I just felt I wanted to go out there and play a more mature knock and get us into a decent position.
“We got off to a great start and Jacob Bethell’s ball-striking at the end got us up to a really good score. It was a clinical performance with the bat and, with the ball, we were just the same, really composed and we just went about our business.”
£15 tickets for home quarter-final
Bears have secured a home Vitality Blast quarter-final which will be on Thursday 6 July, with adult tickets only £15.
Tickets ware available online at tickets.edgbaston.com or on the day via the Ticket Office. Members and Season Pass holders can attend for free by scanning their card at the gate.