Birmingham Bears pushed international opposition all the way as they lost to West Indies by just 13 runs in a Twenty20 friendly at the Dubai Stadium.
After restricting West Indies to 145 for five, the Bears made a strong start to their reply, reaching 69 without loss after nine overs.
But the experienced West Indies attack then squeezed the scoring rate. The Bears began the last over requiring 23 to win and ended 13 short on 132 for four.
Nevertheless, it was an excellent workout for the Bears in the first instalment of the two-match series and they will be looking to give their high-class opposition another severe test in the second game on Sunday.
Captain Ian Bell said: “It was disappointing not to get over the line but I’m really pleased with the performance. There was a lot of encouraging stuff there.
“We played against a high-class international team who have been out here for some time and we are 48 hours off the plane but, even without some of our senior players, still pushed them very close.
“The guys bowled really well. Olly Hannon-Dalby and Richard Jones bowled with a lot of skill and Josh Poysden was outstanding. Then Varun Chopra hit the ball really well but I guess West Indies’ quality showed in the last few overs of each innings with some quick runs and then world-class death-bowling.
[quote cite=”Ian Bell, Bears captain”]Olly Hannon-Dalby and Richard Jones bowled with a lot of skill and Josh Poysden was outstanding.[/quote]
“It would have been nice to win but there was loads of good stuff in there as I’m sure there will be on Sunday when we will field a very different side. We are giving all the guys out here a chance and it was great to see 18-year-old Aaron Thomason out there today and Alex Mellor behind the stumps.”
Tight bowling and sharp fielding kept the West Indies batsmen on a tight rein throughout the first half of their innings at which point the former T20 World Cup champions were 50 for four.
At 86 for five with five overs remaining, West Indies needed late impetus and it was supplied by Dinesh Ramdin (52 from 37 balls) and Jason Holder (23 from 20) whose stand was worth 68 in five overs.
The Bears bowlers performed collectively well as illustrated by the figures: Rikki Clarke 3-0-17-1, Olly Hannon-Dalby 4-0-29-1, Richard Jones 4-0-29-1, Josh Poysden 4-0-25-1, Aaron Thomason 3-0-27-1 and Ateeq Javid 2-0-15-0.
When the Bears replied, openers Ian Bell and Varun Chopra had 50 on the board by the seventh over. But after they were parted, Bell for 35 and Chopra 41, the innings lost momentum. Freddie Coleman made 19 and Rikki Clarke eight but Andy Umeed and Ateeq Javid were left with the tall order of finding 23 from the last six balls and could manage only ten.
Birmingham Bears will field a much-changed team in the second game on Sunday: S.Hain, J.Webb, J.Trott, L.Evans (captain), I.Westwood, T.Ambrose, A.Javid, C.Wright, R.Gordon, K.Barker, J.Poysden.