Birmingham Bears will face bang-in-form Notts Outlaws at Trent Bridge on Friday full of confidence themselves as the NatWestT20Blast group campaign enters its run-in.
With three games left, the Bears are in the thick of the qualification race, fourth in the North Group table, just one point behind leaders Notts.
But those last three matches will be tough, all away from home with Friday’s visit to Trent Bridge followed by trips to Durham Jets on Sunday and then Lancashire Lightning in the final round on Friday week.
Last season we needed one from six games and that affected us. We started protecting what we had and faltered. All we are thinking about now is the next game at Notts.Jim Troughton
With the group table remarkably tight, just three points separating the top six teams, it is impossible to predict exactly how many points will bring qualification this season. One more win more might seal the Bears a quarter-final sport – but might not. Two wins would probably earn a home game in the last eight -but might not.
One thing’s for sure, such speculation can be distracting and first-team coach Jim Troughton insists all that his players are thinking about is Friday’s game at Trent Bridge.
“We’re not paying any attention to how many wins we might need,” he said. “Last season we needed one from six games and that affected us. We started protecting what we had and faltered. All we are thinking about now is the next game at Notts.
“We know the attacking game they play and they are in good form which has put them top of the pile. It will be a tough challenge for us but we have played some really good T20 cricket in recent weeks so it will be tough for them too.
“We’ll go toe-to-toe with them and it should be a fantastic game. We’ve got three games left, all away at Test match venues, and these are the sort of games that you want to be involved in as a coach or a player.
“The guys have just put in a fantastic performance in the championship against Middlesex where I think they fed off the momentum from our recent T20 form. Hopefully, that will work the other way round too as we go from a brilliant last day at Lord’s back into T20.”
Notts Outlaws have risen to the top of the North Group courtesy of some explosive batting from a powerful top-order led by Alex Hales. Against Durham at Trent Bridge last week, the Outlaws amassed 106 from the first six overs with Hales going on to smash 95 from 30 balls with nine fours and nine sixes.
“They have some dangerous players and, after a slow start to the group, have hit form,” said Troughton. “But our form is good too with four successive wins and then, against Worcestershire last Friday, although we didn’t get it quite right with the ball I thought we did really well so get so close with the bat.
“The North Group is wide open so it’s down to whoever plays the best T20 cricket from here on in – and we’ve just got to make sure we are one of those teams.”