The Birmingham Bears took their 5th T20 win, leapfrogging their opponents into third place on the table, at the 3AAA in Derby tonight. Derbyshire Falcons had rather stumbled their way to an unexpected 141 in their innings and it was just enough to give the Bears a scare.
Derbyshire came within an inch of defending the total and making this their third victory, but it was Birmingham’s night in the end.
If Derbyshire’s batters struggled to get a handle on the pitch tonight, the Bears line up had it worked out fast. Sam Hain and Ian Bell whizzed off to a 67-run partnership before Matt Critchley removed Hain, who had been showing his fine skills with the bat yet again, for 28.
The Bears appeared to be cruising. After being dropped by James Neesham on 42, Bell went on to a reach 67, with 5 fours and 2 sixes, before finally being caught at long-off by Chesney Hughes.
By the time Bell’s wicket fell, the match had come down to the wire as the Falcons had fought back valiantly. What had looked like an easy victory at the top of the chase was anybody’s game by the final over.
On the last ball of the evening, Birmingham needed just the one run and the crowd was hushed and filled with hope. It was not to be, however, as Ateeq Javid drove that ball down the ground for a defiant four, to give the visitors the victory by four wickets.
Birmingham had put the Falcons in to bat and with some excellent bowling, coupled with the hosts struggling to read the pitch and mis-timing a few balls, the Falcons were three wickets down before the power play was done.
Hamish Rutherford and Wayne Madsen were responsible for a fair chunk of the final total, putting together an innings-stabilising partnership of 57 for the fourth wicket. For a while it had looked like a race between the two of them to get to a half century, but it was cut short in the 13th over as Jeetan Patel had Rutherford lbw for 33.
Madsen carried on and reached 38 before being caught behind by Luke Ronchi off Mark Adair, with the hosts on 97-5. Solid cameos from Neesham and Shiv Thakor took the total to 141, a figure that had looked a long way off at one point.
The Bears’ chase should’ve been easier than it was, with Bell and Hain on such fine form and the target being little more than average. Former Falcon, Rikki Clarke had taken 2 wickets for just 17, and Oliver Hannon-Dalby another two, to help keep the total down.
It is a credit to the Derbyshire bowlers, who shared the wickets evenly between them, that they kept themselves in the game right to the last ball.
Bears director of cricket Dougie Brown said: “It was a lot tighter than it should have been but credit to Derbyshire, they stuck in there and bowled really well in the middle period. We maybe could have been more clinical with our parternships but that’s T20 cricket.
“Fortunately we’ve come out on top but I would have been very disappointed if we had not got across the line having played as well as we had for the majority of the game.
“It took a fairly calm head from Ateeq Javid to get that final boundary off the last ball but we do pride ourselves on having a pretty mature lower order who can come in and play under a lot of pressure and that’s exactly what they did.”