Vitality Blast Report: Worcestershire Rapids v Bears
Sam Hain hit a 30-ball half century as Birmingham Bears stepped up their bid to reach the knockout stages of the Vitality Blast with a six wicket success over local rivals Worcestershire Rapids at Blackfinch New Road.
The Bears chased down a 179 target with five balls to spare as they secured a third successive win in the competition.
They also lifted the Norman Gifford Trophy which the two counties compete for each season in the T20 format.
Defeat effectively ended the Rapids slim hopes of qualification for the quarter-finals after a fifth setback in their last six games.
Jake Libby continued his excellent form in all formats by top-scoring with 63 but the Rapids lost momentum in the latter part of their innings with Henry Brookes bowling a wicket maiden in the 19th over.
Hain ended unbeaten on 73 from 44 balls with three sixes and five fours as the Bears paced their innings to perfection.
Both sides made one change with the Bears handing batsman Rob Yates his T20 debut in place of Ed Pollock and the Rapids bringing Dillon Pennington back for fellow paceman Adam Finch.
The Rapids, fresh from their first win of the season against Somerset on Friday, again opted to bat first and Hamish Rutherford collected two boundaries in Ollie Stone’s first over.
But the England paceman broke through in his second over when Riki Wessels (10) moved across his stumps and was plumb lbw trying to work to leg.
New batsman Libby was soon into his stride with three fours in Henry Brookes first over and added 59 in six over with Rutherford.
The New Zealander had made 41 off 32 balls with five boundaries when he lofted the returning Stone over cover but departed to a fine low catch on the boundary by Dominic Sibley.
Libby went into overdrive during the remainder of the over with a six over deep mid wicket and a cut and pull which flew to the boundary.
The former Nottinghamshire batsman reached an excellent half century off 29 balls with nine fours.
Cox continued the fine form he had shown in scoring his first T20 half century for two years at Taunton after again being promoted to number four. He drilled Jacob Lintott over the long off boundary and cleared the ropes at backward square off Bresnan.
Libby advanced to 63 before being bowled aiming a drive in the penultimate over at Brookes who achieved the unusual feat at such a late stage of an innings in T20 cricket of bowling a maiden.
New batsman Ross Whiteley could not connect with a mixture of pacey and slower deliveries from the remaining five balls of the over.
He did manage to hit a six in the final over from Stone before being bowled for 12 as the Rapids closed on 178-4. Stone ended with 3-45 with Brookes – 1-21 off three overs – the other wicket-taker.
Charlie Morris had dismissed Babar Azam with his first delivery at Taunton and repeated his performance by having Dominic Sibley (0) caught at mid off from the opening ball of the Bears reply.
But debutant Yates, who has played in all five Bob Willis Trophy matches, instantly looked at home and struck three sixes in his quickfire 29.
Pat Brown broke through when Yates went for a pull and edged through to Cox after adding 54 with Adam Hose.
But the Bears seized the initiative in an opening over from Brett D’Oliveira which cost 22 runs with the leg spinner hit for sixes by Hose and new batsman Sam Hain.
Hose, having raced to 43 off 25 balls, gave the home side a ray of hope when he swept Ed Barnard into the hands of Libby at backward square leg.
The Rapids were unable to stem the flow of runs although Will Rhodes (18) was needlessly run out attempting a quick single to Barnard at mid off. Hain made sure there would be no late alarms with two sixes in the 18th over from Pennington.