Brendon McCullum blazed a brilliant unbeaten 158 – the joint second-highest individual score in world T20 cricket – as Birmingham Bears beat Derbyshire Falcons by 60 runs in the NatWestT20Blast at Edgbaston.
The Kiwi captain more than lived up to expectations on his home debut, thrilling the Bears’ supporters with a thunderous 158 from 64 balls with 13 fours and 11 sixes.
His onslaught lifted Birmingham to 242 for two – their highest total in the format and the joint-third highest by any team in English domestic T20.
Derbyshire’s 182 all out in reply was a plucky effort but predictably fell short as they had to go for broke from the off. The Falcons remain rooted to the bottom of the North Group while Birmingham strengthened their position at the top.
The visitors won the toss but soon harboured doubts about the merit of their decision to bowl when Bears openers McCullum and Varun Chopra had 50 on the board in 25 balls. There was to be no let-up.
The opening pair added 160 from 79 balls before captain Chopra (51 from 37 balls) sliced Wayne White to backward point. That was bad news for the Falcons as McCullum responded by moving into overdrive.
Having progressed relatively sedately to 50 in 23 balls he advanced to 100 (his seventh in T20 and the first by a Bears player in the tournament) in another 19 and to 150 in just 18 more. It was a brutal exhibition of power-batting, full of lacerating straight and leg-side hits and laced with improvisation with a couple of fours scooped over the wicketkeeper’s head.
It was only his loss of strike while Laurie Evans was compiling a 13-ball 16 that prevented McCullum seriously challenging the highest ever T20 score – Chris Gayle’s 175.
Facing a mountainous task, the Falcons had a real go at it. Hamish Rutherford (39, 21 balls) and Wes Durston (43 from 24 with three sixes and three fours) added 61 in 33 balls but, with little choice but to attack everything, wickets fell regularly.
Four of them fell to Josh Poysden whose four overs yielded 51 runs, including seven sixes, and four wickets. A helter-skelter night was summed up by the young spinner’s last over which began 6-6-W-6.
When you are defending 242, you can afford to buy wickets. The Bears will face Leicestershire Foxes at Grace Road tomorrow with one paw in the quarter-finals after seven wins from nine games.