Late substitute Varun Chopra leads Bears to an easy win

Late substitute Varun Chopra leads Bears to an easy win

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Pic: Luke Adams

Birmingham Bears 155-1 (17.3 overs, Chopra 97*) beat Durham Jets 154-9 (Collingwood 40*, Clarke 2-25, Woakes 3-25) by nine wickets

It was only when Sam Hain cried off with food poisoning that ex-Bears captain Varun Chopra knew that he was playing against Durham Jets. The late replacement, however, proved to be the star of the evening, just missing out on what would have been only the second T20 hundred ever for the Bears.

His undefeated 97 came off just 58 balls with eight fours and five sixes. He hit cleanly all round the wicket. His innings put the seal on a comprehensive win for the Bears after the Durham Jets had been restricted to 154-9 by some accurate bowling and fine fielding.

Chopra was well supported by Ian Bell and William Porterfield so that the Bears never seemed in danger of falling short and won with 15 balls to spare. Of the Durham bowlers, only leg-spinner Scott Borthwick commanded any respect, with 1-25 off his four overs.

On a fine evening in front of a crowd of around 5,000, Bell won the toss and chose to bat. The Bears welcomed back Chris Woakes and Rikki Clarke, two multi-faceted players who missed last week’s defeat.

On a pitch that was slow but true, Durham’s 154-9 never looked adequate. Even that total was a recovery from the depths of 118-8, largely thanks to the ever-reliable Paul Collingwood who struck Oliver Hannon-Dalby for two straight sixes in the final over. His 40 off 28 balls was easily top score, the only other significant contributions coming from Ryan Pringle with 33 off 18 and Phil Mustard (22 off 20).

The Bears fielded with great eagerness and sharpness. It has to be said, however, that if Disney continue their trend of re-making their cartoon classics with human performers, Oliver Hannon-Dalby, based on his fielding in this match, will be a shoo-in for the Bambi-on-ice scene.

Clarke took 2-25 and actually bowled that T20 rarity, a wicket maiden. He also took two catches, one a tricky running effort that others might have fumbled but he was on odds-on certainty to hold. Woakes took 3-25. Their combined contribution of 5-50 plus two catches showed just how much they were missed in the Worcester match.

The Bears will take encouragement from this win whilst Durham move on to play Leicestershire tomorrow needing to improve on a lukewarm display here at Edgbaston.

Man of the Match: Undoubtedly that man Chopra who made batting look easy. When Sam Hain returns to fitness, the Bears will need to decide who to leave out – it probably won’t be Chopra.

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