Brett D’Oliveira starred with bat and ball as Worcestershire Rapids beat Birmingham Bears by five wickets in the big NatWestT20Blast derby at Edgbaston.
Luke Ronchi, on his home debut, managed 21 from 16 balls
The Rapids maintained their 100% start to the Blast season and lifted the Norman Gifford Trophy, newly-named after the former England spinner who captained both clubs, as winners of the West Midlands derby.
Put in, Birmingham were restricted to 155 for seven by an attack skilfully led by Ed Barnard (4-0-14-1) and D’Oliviera (4-0-17-1). Only Ian Bell (66, 57 balls, five fours, two sixes) stayed long enough to shape the innings.
The Rapids were then seen home to victory with five balls to spare by D’Oliveira’s measured unbeaten 62 (38 balls, four fours, three sixes).
The visitors bowled with great heart and discipline after suffering a big pre-match blow with news that Mitchell Santner’s stay as their overseas player is over. The finger-fracture he sustained against Durham Jets last Friday has proved complicated and he underwent surgery on it this (Friday) morning before returning to New Zealand.
In his absence, the Rapids fought back impressively after Bell and Sam Hain gave the Bears a flying start with 50 on the board in 51 balls.
After Hain (24, 17 balls) was bowled through a slog at Jack Shantry, the innings lost momentum. D’Oliveira’s clever variations put the brake on and also ousted Laurie Evans, lbw. Barnard was even more parsimonious and also contributed a big wicket, that of William Porterfield, adroitly caught at deep mid-wicket by Alexei Kervezee.
Bell, in search of impetus, holed out to long on. Luke Ronchi, on his home debut, managed 21 from 16 balls but Birmingham ‘s total appeared no more than par.
Evans then pulled off arguably the greatest catch in the history of cricket
They needed early wickets and were delighted to remove Tom Kohler-Cadmore, who bludgeoned a century against Durham last week, at the start of the third over when Mark Adair’s first ball in senior T20 cricket yielded a catch to extra-cover.
Evans then pulled off arguably the greatest catch in the history of cricket, diving full-length at mid-wicket, to remove Joe Clarke and when Daryl Mitchell edged Boyd Rankin behind, the Rapids were 45 for three.
But Kervezee rebooted the innings with an enterprising 40 (29 balls, four fours) and after he was bowled by Ateeq Javid, D’Oliveira took charge. Three fours in an over from Rankin took him to a 30-ball half-century and left the Rapids needing just 16 from the last 18 balls, only 13 of which they needed.