Chris Woakes believes big-hitting Blackcaps star Luke Ronchi is a “great addition” to the Birmingham Bears squad as they prepare to launch their bid to reach a third successive NatWest T20 Blast Finals Day at Edgbaston.
Wicketkeeper/batsman Ronchi will make his debut for the Bears when they start their Blast season against Notts Outlaws at Trent Bridge a week on Friday.
The 35-year-old, who will play in all the Bears’ T20 games this year, brings a degree of firepower proven many times in international cricket, having hit 52 sixes and 145 fours in 99 ODIs and T20Is for New Zealand.
And Woakes can’t wait to welcome to Birmingham a player with whom he has shared a dressing-room before.
“I played with Luke at Wellington Firebirds and he is a really nice guy and a fantastic cricketer who will give us some more real power in the middle-order,” he said.
“Sometimes in T20 you will lose a few early wickets so it’s great to have guys in the middle order who can come in and clear the ropes. Luke is a great addition to the squad and it’s really good that we have got him for all the games.”
Woakes and Ronchi will be looking to hit the ground running at Trent Bridge next week and make a winning start to the NatWestT20Blast trail which leads towards Finals Day on August 20.
And to have the lure of Finals Day at their own Edgbaston home is a massive incentive in itself for the Bears, admits Woakes.
“It is an amazing day,” he said. “I think the pinnacle for some players in county cricket now is to get to Finals Day, it’s almost bigger than a Lord’s final, so to have it at Edgbaston is brilliant. All the people behind the scenes at the ground put on a great spectacle.
“For us to make it three Finals Days out of three would be fantastic and we’ll be looking to go one better than last year when we went out in the semi-final.
“Our two Finals Days so far sum up T20 really. Last year we lost the toss in the semi and were soon four down and it just killed us, whereas the previous year everything seemed to go our way. We got crucial wickets at the right time and crucial partnerships at the right time. And that’s T20 – a few balls here and there can decide it.
“We have had the best and worst of Finals Days, but just to get to another one would be a terrific achievement. We know have a lot of hard work to do to get there, starting against Notts next week.”