Both the current title holders, the Birmingham Bears, and three times T20 Champions Leicestershire Foxes are well in the mix to qualify for the quarter finals of this year’s competition.
The Bears, having lost their opening match, have notched up four wins in a row and sit in third place in the North Group. The Foxes, despite losing last night to bottom team Derbyshire Falcons, are just one place below the Bears, so there is all to play for at Edgbaston this evening.
The Bears’ batting has leaned heavily on William Porterfield and Ian Bell. Bell may have had mixed fortunes recently with England, but since he came back to the Bears, he has looked a class above his colleagues and opponents in both four day and T20 cricket. He is off to a pre-Ashes training camp in Spain on 27 June so will be keen to sustain his current run of good form until then. Whether a trip to Spain is better preparation for the Ashes than more time in the middle scoring runs is a whole different topic.
The Foxes have been inconsistent, as their record of three wins and three losses would suggest. But in Jigar Naik, they have an off-spinner who has proved capable of doing the same job that Jeetan Patel performs for the Bears, namely strangling the opposition in the vital middle overs. This battle of the spinners could well determine the result of tonight’s match.
The Birmingham Bears are still without the injured Chris Woakes and will have to wait a little longer for the arrival of Brendon McCullum, so the squad is unchanged from last week’s win over the Notts Outlaws. That means they do have Ireland captain William Porterfield available, even though Ireland are currently playing a T20 series against Scotland. The Bears may well give another game to leg-spinner Josh Poysden, who impressed last week against the Outlaws.
Birmingham Bears squad: Varun Chopra (c), Tim Ambrose (wk), Ian Bell, Rikki Clarke, Laurie Evans, Recordo Gordon, Oliver Hannon-Dalby, Ateeq Javid ,Tom Lewis, Jeetan Patel, William Porterfield, Josh Poysden, Boyd Rankin
The Leicestershire Foxes‘ fans may well feel aggrieved that, while the Bears hang on to Porterfield, Kevin O’Brien has taken over as the Irish skipper and misses the game. Grant Elliott is still on duty for New Zealand and Umar Akmal will play his final game for the Foxes tonight after a brief stay.
Leicestershire Foxes squad: Mark Cosgrove (c), Andrea Agathangelou, Umar Akmal, Matt Boyce, Ned Eckersley, Clint McKay, Jigar Naik, Niall O’Brien (wk), Ben Raine, Atif Sheikh, Charlie Shreck, James Sykes, Rob Taylor, Tom Wells
Weather and Conditions
The forecast is for a cloudy but dry evening, with a temperature of around 15 degrees. All being well, Messrs Duckworth and Lewis can stay at home.
As for the pitch, groundsman Gary Barwell sets high standards so we can expect a true surface offering plenty of runs.
Date: 19 June
Ground: Edgbaston Stadium, Birmingham
Umpires: Martin Bodenham and Peter Hartley
Odds (Skybet): Birmingham Bears 4/7; Leicestershire Foxes 11/8