Birmingham Bears will be hunting a fifth successive NatWest T20 Blast victory when they take on Worcestershire Rapids in the big derby at Edgbaston tomorrow (7pm).
And as captain Ian Bell prepares to lead his rejuvenated side against the old rivals, he pinpointed two factors which have helped power the Bears to the top of the North Group table: the emergence of a clutch of exciting young players into the team – and the fantastic backing from the fans.
“I can’t thank people enough for the support they have continued to give us all the way through”Ian Bell
Adam Hose and Aaron Thomason have been hugely influential in the last two wins, with Hose delivering one of the best debut knocks in memory against Lancashire last Sunday and then Thomason bowling a nerveless last over, and a brilliant final ball, to seal a thrilling two-run win at Northampton on Tuesday. That win was cheered by a big Bears following at Wantage Road. And that level of support, home and away, has been a great help to the players as they strive to bounce back from a very tough first half of the season.
The support is truly appreciated, says Bell, who looks forward to hearing it in overdrive at the Bears v Rapids derby. “It will be a fantastic atmosphere tomorrow,” the skipper said. “It’s been a tough season for us, a tough 16 months really, but I can’t thank people enough for the support they have continued to give us all the way through. I am very thankful that the players have stayed together and our supporters have stuck with us. We will get through it – and there are some really positive signs.
“It’s been a really tricky time and we’ve still got a lot of work to do, but the guys have been working desperately hard behind the scenes. Things don’t just happen overnight but it’s great when you see guys like Aaron coming up trumps the other night and Ed Pollock and Adam Hose and Alex Mellor going out there and expressing themselves. It’s really pleasing to see and hopefully we can continue the momentum and take it into our four-day cricket.”
Next up for the Bears tomorrow is a Rapids side which has struggled in T20 this season. Of eight games, they have lost five, including an eight-wicket defeat to Birmingham at New Road in the group opener.
But Bell knows the old rivals are always dangerous.
“Our last four games have been fantastic and we are really looking forward to tomorrow, but we know we’ll have to be at our best,” he said. “Everybody in the group, top to bottom, is dangerous with world-class overseas players. We are very aware of the threat Worcestershire pose but would love to make it two wins out of two against them in T20 this year.”