Birmingham Bears will face Northants Steelbacks at Northampton tomorrow knowing that victory would secure their place in the NatWest T20 Blast quarter-finals.
Birmingham returned to form on Sunday, putting three successive defeats behind them with a comfortable 28-run win over Leicestershire at Edgbaston. With three North Group games left, one win would now ensure their qualification while two would probably bring a home draw in the last eight.
Garnering those wins won’t be easy with the next two games against the group’s top two sides, the Steelbacks tomorrow and then top-of-the-table Notts Outlaws in a mouth-watering clash at Edgbaston on Friday.
First up, the Steelbacks – with whom Birmingham have unfinished business after the visitors cruised to an eight-wicket victory at Edgbaston earlier this month, insists captain Ian Bell.
“I’ll be saying to the guys remember what happened at our place,” Bell said. “Northampton are one of the best teams in the group and we didn’t do ourselves justice against them. We were way off par, so it would be great to go there and level the score and get ourselves into the quarter-finals.
“The win over Leicestershire Foxes was very important for us, momentum-wise. The guys had a really good day but we have to back it up and beat Northamptonshire.
“We need one more win from three games but the frustrating thing is we should have put qualification to bed already. We have had opportunities to be top of the group. We have a very good side here – we just haven’t nailed it consistently yet which is frustrating but at the same time quite exciting.
“Our squad has some really good youngsters and we have all the skills you need, but we have to learn very quickly to nail those positions.”
Progress through a 14-game group campaign is unlikely to be without blips, especially in a format as volatile as T20. But while six wins have left the Bears within touching distance of qualification, they have suffered some spectacular batting collapses too, notably at New Road last Friday when they lost eight wickets for 19 runs.
“If I’m honest it’s been a frustration because in the games against Yorkshire Vikings and Worcestershire Raids it wasn’t that we played really badly, it’s just that we didn’t nail the real crunch periods of the game,” said Bell.
“At home to Northampton we had a bad day and got outplayed, but at Yorkshire we lost five wickets for six runs and then at Worcester Matt Wade played one of the best knocks I’ve ever seen and then we lose eight for 19. I didn’t know what to say after that, at first, but we had a good honest chat after the game and the guys responded really well against Leicestershire. Now we have got to carry that on at Northampton.”
Birmingham Bears Squad
- Ian Bell (Captain)
- Mark Adair
- Keith Barker
- Rikki Clarke
- Laurie Evans
- Recordo Gordon
- Sam Hain
- Oliver Hannon-Dalby
- Ateeq Javid
- Jeetan Patel
- Josh Poysden
- Aaron Thomason
- Matthew Wade (Wicket-Keeper)
- Chris Wright
Play gets underway at 6.30pm with live coverage on Sky Sports and ball-by-ball commentary on BBC Radio WM and BBC Radio Coventry & Warwickshire.