The Greatest Ever Bears series this week turns the spotlight on the shortest format and asks what was the Greatest Ever T20 Innings?
Five dazzling knocks make up the shortlist… which one gets your vote?
89 v Worcestershire Rapids at Worcester, June 18, 2003
The Bears’ first T20 visit to New Road arrived with the format still only six days old in English cricket. The Bears had begun with a win at Somerset thanks to the all-round excellence of Collins Obuya (34 not out and 3-0-16-3) but everyone was still trying to work out the best approach to batting.
In 13 games around the country so far, only two batsmen had passed 80. In front of a New Road full house, Nick Knight made it three with an innings of the highest class.
Batting first, Knight soon lost opening partner Jonathan Trott and then a succession of others – Dom Ostler, Neil Carter, Ian Bell, Trevor Penney, Graeme Wagg, Collins Obuya. But the captain showed all the placement and stroke-playing skills that brought him 100 ODI caps for England to reach an exquisite 89 (58 balls, nine fours, three sixes). The first ton in English T20 beckoned until he was stumped off Gareth Batty.
Knight’s brilliance had set up a 20-run win for his team, though, and also showed that T20 batting was about skill as much as slogging. As long-time Bears fan Hattie Wright put it: “I was a skeptic about T20 before it started, but I remember watching Nick play in this game and was converted.”
52 v Northants Steelbacks at Milton Keynes, June 19, 2008
T20 is cricket’s fun format and while this knock from Neil Carter is well down the list in terms of highest scores for the Bears, in terms of fun, it’s right up there.
The Bears were treading new ground inside the tree-lined bowl of Campbell Park and took to it well, restricting the home side to 102 for nine (Ant Botha 4-0-15-3, Chris Martin 4-0-15-2).
It was a modest target, though no formality on a slow track, offering turn. But it quickly became a formality after half-an-hour of Carter pyrotechnics.
Spectators had to stay alert as sixes and fours flew, one of Carter’s bigger hits requiring brisk evasive action from Bears scorer David Wainwright on the pavilion balcony. Even the Steelbacks supporters loved it. Great fun.
Thirty-three minutes after going in, Carter came out with 52 (28 balls) out of an opening stand of 62 with Jonathan Trott who went on to steer his side to victory with a judicious unbeaten 24 (41 balls, two fours).
158 not out v Derbyshire at Edgbaston, July 3, 2015
The big-hitting Black Caps ace made it a Bears home debut to remember by unleashing one of the most spectacular innings in Blast history.
The New Zealand captain smashed 158 from 69 balls, at the time the biggest score made in English domestic T20 cricket. His innings included 11 sixes and 13 fours but, while containing plenty of power and clean-hitting, it also offered showed that T20 batting is not all about brawn.
After a relatively watchful start, McCullum accelerated skilfully, picking gaps in the field and blending fluent strokes with the bigger hits. It was proper batting. His opening stand of 160 in 13.1 overs with Varun Chopra (51, 37 balls) lifted the Bears to 242 for two, and ultimately a 60-run win.
McCullum’s stay with the Bears did not bring many match-shaping innings, this was his only time past 50 during his stay, but this masterpiece was a knock that no-one present will forget.
92 not out v Notts Outlaws at Trent Bridge, May 20, 2016
Batting in T20 is not all about trying to hit the ball out the park…when your team is batting second, in particular.
You need to be able to pace the chase – that is a big skill and Sam Hain showed it to perfection in the opening match of the North Division campaign in 2016.
A visit to Trent Bridge was a tough opener and Notts piled up 179 for seven, a challenging total which would have been even more so but for Jeetan Patel’s customary excellence (4-0-23-3).
In reply, the Bears soon lost Ian Bell, and Hain saw other partners come and go. Will Porterfield’s 18-ball 26 supplied impetus, but no one else lasted more than 15 balls…apart from Hain.
He batted beautifully, picking the gaps and finding the boundary often enough to keep the Bears up with the required rate. He reached 50 from 32 balls and advanced to an unbeaten 92 from 54 with 12 fours and two sixes to shepherd his side to victory with two balls to spare. High-class batting will show itself in any format.
131 v Northants Steelbacks at Edgbaston, July 20, 2018
When the Steelbacks piled up 231 for five in this North Division match, the Bears knew that only some pretty special batting could get them close. Under the scoreboard-pressure of a very tall target, Ian Bell delivered something special.
The Bears ace had recently heard Kumar Sangakkara comment that, batting in T20, you often had more time than you think. Bell took that on board and played a brilliant, exquisitely-paced innings which took his side to the brink of a sensational victory.
He reached 50 in 27 balls and advanced to 100 in 50 during a T20 world-record third-wicket stand of 171 with Adam Hose (64, 39 balls). Bell went on to hit 11 fours and seven sixes in a stunning 62-ball 131 to break the back of the chase.
When he fell to the first ball of the final over, the Bears were favourites to pull off a sensational win. The game eventually ended in a tie…but what a match and, from Bell, was an innings.
Cast your vote
To vote for Bears’ Greatest T20 Innings, simply complete the below form. Everyone who submits their vote will be entered into a prize draw to win a signed Warwickshire shirt.
Voting closes at 5pm on Tuesday 14 July and the winner will be announced on Wednesday.