Birmingham Bears have their destiny in their own hands as they prepare to round off their NatWest T20 Blast North Group campaign with a visit to Lancashire Lightning tomorrow.
The equation is simple. Victory at Emirates Old Trafford would take the Bears through to the quarter-finals. Defeat would put them out of the tournament as the winners of the Derbyshire Falcons v Durham Jets match would overtake them and pip them for the fourth qualification spot.
After a strong start to the group phase, Birmingham have made heavy weather of it latterly with five defeats in six games – but their fate is still theirs to dictate.
And all-rounder Keith Barker is confident that if they play their best Blast cricket tomorrow they can preserve the prospect of a third successive Finals Day appearance by beating a Lancashire side now under the control of Bears legend Ashley Giles.
“We’ve been in this position before,” Barker said. “In the season we won the trophy we needed to win our last game to qualify and also needed another result to go our way too. We won our game comfortably but also needed Yorkshire to get beaten by Notts and Notts chased down 200 to do us a favour.
“This time at least it’s completely in our hands because if we win we will go through.
“It’s not ideal because you would want to be through by now and pushing for a home quarter-final, but it is still in our hands. We are not relying on anyone else so we have just got to make sure we are right on it tomorrow and hopefully the result will go our way.”
After missing the early T20 games this season Barker, who is having a superb Specsavers County Championship season with both bat and ball, has returned to the Blast side of late and is relishing the very different challenges entailed in the format.
“It’s been good to be back in the T20 side,” he said. “It’s exciting cricket which can go either way when you’re bowling. Against Notts last week I got a few wickets, the week before it didn’t go my way. You never know in T20 but it’s an exciting format and just great for me to be involved again.
“It’s not been too hard adjusting back from the championship. Coming back in to the format you just need to brush up on your skills a little bit and try and learn a few new ones along the way but it’s a great challenge.
“Now we have just got to go again on Friday. It will be a big crowd and a great atmosphere and no doubt Ash will want to get a result against us so we will need to be at our best.”