“Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown” said a well known man of the Midlands and the Birmingham Bears, holders of the NatWest T20 Blast title, are finding out the truth of that quotation.
They lost comprehensively to Nottinghamshire in their first match last week and, tonight at Edgbaston, they had plenty of nervy moments before dismissing their local rivals Worcestershire in the last over to win by 18 runs.
The Bears’ total of 144/5 was the lowest score they have ever successfully defended in T20 matches. They did it in front of a big crowd and in weather conditions that started fine but ended up with a steady downpour for the last couple of overs of the match.
The Bears await the advent of Brendon McCullum; and with their first two batting efforts in the T20 Blast failing to reach 150, the New Zealander can’t arrive soon enough. Tonight, their innings never really got off the ground but, contrastingly, the ball did with seven sixes being struck to the joy of the home faithful. But there were only eight fours and they struggled to achieve any real momentum.
No player got beyond the 27 achieved by both William Porterfield and Tom Lewis, while all the Worcestershire bowlers were effective, none more so than Brett D’Oliveira, whose canny leg-spin brought him 2/21 off his four overs. The Bears’ total would have been pitiful had it not been for an energetic unbroken sixth-wicket partnership of 40 by Ateeq Javid and Jeetan Patel in the last four overs.
To defend such an ordinary total, the Bears needed to get early wickets and Rikki Clarke obliged by dismissing Richard Oliver in the first over for nought. Clarke contributed again when he made a difficult swirling catch look absurdly simple to dismiss Tom Kohler-Cadmore for 21. The successful bowler, Recordo Gordon, made it two in two when Alex Gidman edged to Tim Ambrose. When Ed Barnard ran himself out, the Rapids had managed to dig a hole for themselves at 47/4 off the first seven overs.
That the Rapids got as close as they did to the Bears’ score owed almost everything to Daryl Mitchell and Ross Whiteley, who were the top-scorers in the match with 34 and 33 respectively. But the Bears’ bowlers persisted and were backed up by exceptional fielding and some aggressive captaincy by Varun Chopra. Jeetan was his usual parsimonious self with 1/17 off his four overs, fellow spinner Javid took 1-21 and both Clarke and Gordon took three wickets.
After the game, the Bears’ Director of Cricket, a relieved Dougie Brown, commented that success in T20 cricket involves learning how to win from difficult situations, something that his team certainly managed to do tonight.
Man of the Match – Jeetan Patel (Birmingham Bears): I’m tempted to give the Man of the Match accolade to Recordo Gordon whose two wickets in two balls in the fifth over rocked the Rapids. But in truth and almost predictably, the key man was Jeetan Patel, not just for his economical bowling that put the squeeze on the Rapids but also for his vital innings of 23 off only ten balls that elevated the Bears’ total to modest respectability.