For the last four years, the Nottinghamshire Outlaws have fallen at the quarter-final stage of the English domestic T20 competition and this year their opening match pits them against the reigning champions.
Nottinghamshire’s coach Mick Newell has encouraged his team to play without fear and has put the prospect of getting further than the quarter-finals to the back of everyone’s minds.
Contrary to that, Dougie Brown – the Birmingham Bears’ coach – has attributed some credit for his team lifting the trophy in 2014 to the very team they will meet on Friday night. Had Nottinghamshire not beaten the Yorkshire Vikings at Headingley in the final match of the group stages, Brown’s team would not have made it through to the quarter-finals.
“We have already thanked Notts!” Brown told Brian Halford for the county’s website. “We sort of burgled our way through the group stage last year and that is something that we need to address.”
So, with both teams looking like strong contenders to raise the 2015 trophy and wanting to get their respective campaigns off to the best start possible, the opening match of the season should be a real firecracker: intriguingly, the last T20 match that the Birmingham Bears lost was to Nottinghamshire.
Fresh from the news that he will be joining Mumbai Indians in the place of Corey Anderson, Alex Hales will be looking to sign off in style before jetting off to the sub-continent. Perhaps slightly surprisingly, Hales averages more in T20Is (nearly 38) than in its county incarnation (29); against an attack like Birmingham’s, that might not be a bad thing.
Strong with bat, ball, and famously possessing ‘bucket hands’, Rikki Clarke would be an asset to any side. The former Surrey and Derbyshire man has been around for so long, it’s easy to forget he’s got plenty of years ahead of him at the age of 33. Having played an integral role in last year’s winning side, Clarke is in the enviable position of having won, at this moment in time, the first and the last English Twenty20 competition, as an important component of the 2003 Surrey Lions side.
Notts Outlaws squad: Jake Ball, Luke Fletcher, Will Gidman, Harry Gurney, Alex Hales, Steven Mullaney, Samit Patel, Vernon Philander, Greg Smith, Brendan Taylor (wk), James Taylor (c), Riki Wessels and Sam Wood
Birmingham Bears squad: Tim Ambrose (wk), Keith Barker, Varun Chopra (c), Rikki Clarke, Laurie Evans, Ateeq Javid, Tom Lewis, Jeetan Patel, William Porterfield, Josh Poysden, Boyd Rankin, Jonathon Webb and Chris Wright.
Weather and conditions
By all accounts the weather at Trent Bridge should be warm and dry throughout the day, albeit cloudy, meaning the match should get off to a storming start. There is a slim chance of a shower midway through the evening so it’ll be all eyes on the clouds in the hope of staving off the rain.
Date: 15th April 2015
Ground: Trent Bridge
Umpires: Martin Bodenham, Michael Gough, Jeff Evans (third umpire)
Odds (SkyBet): Nottinghamshire Outlaws 4/6, Birmingham Bears 6/5
Natwest T20 Blast Match Stats (in association with Opta):
Rikki Clarke needs two catches to become the second fielder after Steven Croft to take 50 catches in English T20s.
Alex Hales needs 84 runs to become the third player after Samit Patel and David Hussey to score 2,000 T20 runs for Notts Outlaws.