North Group: Birmingham Bears 185-4 (Hain 92*) beat Nottinghamshire Outlaws 179-7 (Wessels 52; Patel 3-23) by six wickets
There were clouds in the sky, but still they came; rain was expected, but still they came. More than 10,000 people made their way to Trent Bridge tonight to watch the opening game of the Outlaws’ T20 tournament.
You might assume that there were a fair few away fans in the ground, having only to travel from the other side of the Midlands, but the roars of delight for the likes of Chris Read and Samit Patel said otherwise.
Most telling of all, perhaps, was the enormous shout that went up as the ever-dangerous Ian Bell was removed early and for just 11 runs. If the Nottingham folk thought Bell was the only dangerous man in the Bears’ line-up, the East Midlanders certainly underestimated their West Midlands foe.
It was Bell’s opening partner, Sam Hain, who caused the problems. Carrying the bat from start to finish, he remained unbeaten on 92 at evening’s end.
Winning the toss and opting to put the Outlaws in to bat, Birmingham surely had one eye on the weather. Yet, despite the forecast, the weather smiled on Nottingham tonight.
The rain interrupted proceedings at Grace Road and reports came in that it was raining in Derby. Trent Bridge was living on borrowed time. Toward the end, there was light rain on and off but the umpires carried on and the players pushed through.
Batting first, the hosts lost Michael Lumb early but the Outlaws don’t lack depth. It was Riki Wessels that lead the way in Lumb’s absence, making his way to a 50 partnership with Greg Smith then onto a half-century of his own, off 33 balls, in the 14th over.
Jeetan Patel removed Wessels in the following over for 52, but the hosts were well on their way to posting a decent total. Smith contributed 43 and captain Dan Christian 34 as the Outlaws posted a solid 179 for their twenty overs.
With the Bears missing Varun Chopra and Rikki Clarke tonight, it was easy to imagine Bell would be the mainstay of the defense. If that was the general consensus of Nottingham folk, they hadn’t counted on the quality of Hain.
The Bears were slightly ahead of Notts, and of the par score, for the entire session although only just. As the rain came down in the final five overs, the Outlaws shoulders began to slump. The game had gotten away from them and, with a quality Chris Woakes maximum from the third-to-last ball the victory was taken.
If the Birmingham Bears are looking to avenge their poor performance at last year’s finals day, they have started their season in just the right way.
Man of the Match: Sam Hain. With the veteran Bell falling early, Hain must’ve felt it was job to step up. The 20-year-old, who was pulled in in place of Varun Chopra, gave a superb performance and glowed with confidence as he reached a 37 ball 50 and then finished the evening with 92* off just 54 balls.