A fine all-round performance from Rikki Clarke saw Birmingham through to an impressive victory over Leicestershire at Grace Road.
Having hit 44 from 36 balls after the Bears batted first, the experienced Clarke then produced the most economical figures of the T20 competition so far this season, bowling his four overs (three of which formed part of the Leicestershire power-play) for just ten runs and picking up the wicket of Foxes’ opener Ned Eckersley.
Even so, skipper Mark Cosgrove hit 74 off 56 balls to keep Leicestershire in the hunt until the final overs of the game. The result leaves the Bears at the top of the North Division, while Leicestershire may now need to win their final three games to qualify for the quarter-finals.
It was not a complete performance by any means and we were not at our best but we have come away with two points.Rikki Clarke
Earlier, the Foxes had shown few ill-effects from their long and fruitless trip to Durham the previous evening, from which they did not get back to Leicester until close to 3am.
Ben Raine struck with his first ball, Birmingham captain Varun Chopra going leg before wicket playing across a straight delivery, but the wicket Leicestershire craved came in the following over.
Clint McKay, clearly relishing bowling on a pitch with a little more pace than some at Grace Road this season, had already discomfited Brendon McCullum with a rising delivery when he pitched one up and the New Zealand skipper, who had scored an English T20 record 158 against Derbyshire at Edgbaston on Friday evening, mistimed an attempted drive straight into the hands of compatriot Grant Elliott at mid-off for just 6.
There was no panic from Clarke, however, and in company initially with Tom Lewis and then with Tim Ambrose, Clarke steered the Bears towards a competitive score before finally holing out off the bowling of Ollie Freckingham.
Clarke’s bowling spell kept the Leicestershire chase in check, but with Cosgrove going strongly in company with New Zealand international Grant Elliott, the Foxes looked to be favourites at the 15 over point, when they were 111-2. At the same stage of their innings, the Bears were 111-5.
But Elliott, who had been playing calmly, surprisingly lifted Recordo Gordon high to Lauire Evans at deep midwicket, and not for the first time this season, Gordon’s well-disguised slower balls ensured the required rate kept rising until it was beyond the home team’s reach.
Clarke said: “It was a good win. It was not a complete performance by any means and we were not at our best but we have come away with two points which is the sign of a good side. We have that winning formula. “We were perhaps 15 or 20 runs shy of what we wanted but we are a good bowling and fielding side and have defended that sort of total before and did so again. “I was very pleased with my bowling. I had seen the way the ball nipped around for their guys so just tried to keep it simple, stand the seam up and get it through to Timmy Ambrose.”