Birmingham Bears first-team coach Jim Troughton will be looking for a big improvement in his team’s bowling and fielding when they face Northants Steelbacks in the Vitality Blast at Edgbaston on Friday (7pm).
Surprise back-to-back defeats to Leicestershire Foxes and Durham Jets have put the Bears under pressure in the North Group. They sit seventh in the table after two wins and three defeats in five games.
The seeds of last weekend’s losses were sown in the field, with a spate of dropped catches and some loose bowling which enabled the opposition to pile up 229 and 220 respectively.
It was a far cry from the high standards which helped power Birmingham to three of the last four Finals Days. And Troughton will demand better on Friday when his team may have more bowling options at its disposal with Olly Stone and Aaron Thomason nearing recovery from injuries.
“In the Durham game we scored 200 and showed again that we have the power to do that but our execution with the ball was a big issue,” Troughton said. “It’s about nailing your skills, whether with a wide yorker or a full yorker, and we just didn’t do that enough. We gave them too many opportunities to find the short boundary.
“If we are honest, even last year when we reached the final, we were always searching for 24 balls as a bowling unit but we accepted that was the trade-off for being a really powerful batting unit. This time round, with Olly and Aaron injured, we have been under pressure but those two are coming back now and if they are fit for selection on Friday it will give us more options with the balance of the team.”
The two recent defeats came as a big reality check to the Bears and illustrated how quickly things can change in T20, coming after they won two of the first three games in fine style by eight wickets.
Troughton knows that, against the Foxes in particular, the Bears gave themselves big problems by spilling catches
“Against Leicestershire we didn’t help ourselves at all,” he said. “We were poor in the field, dropping four catches in the powerplay. Like all teams in T20 we have had some days that are good and some bad – that was horrifically ugly.
“It was strange because the guys who dropped catches were the last ones you would expect to but, for whatever reason, both teams in the last two games made some big fielding errors. Maybe it’s the hard ground, whereas we’re used to Edgbaston being quite soft.
“One thing’s for sure, we have been as specific with the fielding sessions this year as we have over many years when we have been a very good fielding side. It’s just about doing it on the day – staying calm, taking the emotion out of it and doing the job as the guys have proved many times they can.”