Worcestershire Rapids make the short journey across the West Midlands to begin their T20 Blast campaign at the home of holders Birmingham Bears.
Whilst Worcestershire were hosting the New Zealanders in a thrilling warm-up match, the Bears were sent home from Trent Bridge with their tails between their legs, after a chastening eight-wicket defeat at the hands of the Notts Outlaws. Such a start won’t cause Dougie Brown’s side to panic; last year, a fairly inauspicious start saw the Bears drinking in the last-chance saloon on more than one occasion, before riding up on the rails to take the crown. Indeed, that defeat didn’t seem to harm confidence, after an impressive Championship victory against Durham.
Worcestershire, meanwhile, seem to be getting closer to their Holy Grail of Finals Day. After a disastrous start to their quarter-final at the Kia Oval, in which they were reduced to 97/6, they ran Surrey close before Jason Roy finally put his foot down. An organised side with particular strength in the bowling department, if they can finally orchestrate a home quarter-final, they could be a good bet to finally break their Finals Day duck.
These Bears-Pears contests are always lively occasions, perhaps second only in terms of fierce rivalry to the Roses battles. Last year, both sides won their respective home games. Eight days ago, the Bears, in their Championship guise, secured a comprehensive win over Worcestershire.
In this competition, Birmingham appear to have two men on whom they can hang their hat, no matter what the occasion. The first, Varun Chopra, was the only player to cover himself in any glory on Friday night at Trent Bridge, whilst Jeetan Patel has persistently proved himself one of the most reliable overseas players ever to ply his trade on these shores. In over 120 domestic T20 matches, his economy remains just under seven runs per over: impressive by anyone’s standards. Last year, the Kiwi took 2/17 against the Rapids.
Local boy Tom Kohler-Cadmore secured his first Blast half-century in this Edgbaston fixture last year, and after a highly impressive 80 in a warm-up fixture on Wednesday evening, allied to a half-century against New Zealand, he’ll have high hopes of making a big impact on Friday night.
The Bears make just one change from their squad that faced Notts last week, with pace bowler Recordo Gordon, who played a big part in last year’s success, replacing the rested Keith Barker.
For Worcestershire, Colin Munro is yet to join the side, but is expected to make his 2015 bow next week against Leicestershire. Nineteen-year-old Ed Barnard is rewarded for some fine performances in the warm-up games with a place in the squad.
Birmingham Bears squad: Varun Chopra (c), Tim Ambrose (wk), Rikki Clarke, Laurie Evans, Recordo Gordon, Ateeq Javid, Tom Lewis, Jeetan Patel, William Porterfield, Josh Poysden, Boyd Rankin, Jonathon Webb, Chris Wright.
Worcestershire Rapids squad: Daryl Mitchell (c), Richard Oliver, Tom Kohler-Cadmore, Alex Gidman, Alexei Kervezee, Ross Whiteley, Ed Barnard, Ben Cox (wk), Joe Leach, Charlie Morris, Sachithra Senanayake, Brett D’Oliveira, Jack Shantry, Shaaiq Choudhry
Weather and conditions
There’s a chance of showers in the hours before the game, but with the forecast improving by the hour, there should be few worries about completing the full forty overs. In this week’s Championship game, a total mixed bag gives few clues. Expect a good cricketing wicket, like most at this venue.
Date: 22nd May
Umpires: Martin Bodenham & Alex Wharf
Odds (SkyBet): Birmingham 8/13, Worcestershire 5/4