Two of the powerhouses of the North Group meet as holders Birmingham Bears take on Yorkshire Vikings at Edgbaston on Sunday. While both sides retain aspirations of reaching the quarter-finals, they both linger in mid-table at present.
Both have played one or two fewer matches than others, and this match will go some way to determining their fate as we near the halfway point of the group stages.
The Bears, despite their loss to Leicestershire on Friday, are in a good position with four wins and two losses from their opening six games. A win would send them joint-top with rivals Worcestershire Rapids and while there are no players in a purple patch of form, they possess many consistent, experienced players.
Meanwhile, the visitors ended a run of three consecutive losses with an impressive win over Notts Outlaws on Friday to get their T20 Blast campaign back on track and are likely to be in confident mood at Edgbaston. Their squad on paper looks to be one of the strongest in the competition, but Friday was probably the first time their potential was realised.
This seems an even match-up and on an Edgbaston ground that generally encourages a steady flow of runs we could be in for a high-scoring and fiercely competitive game.
Since the dawn of time it seems Jeetan Patel has been an unsung and remarkably consistent performer for the Edgbaston outfit. The Kiwi off-spinner finished the Bears’ victorious 2014 season with 25 wickets at a fraction over six-an-over and has unsurprisingly bowled the most overs for the side so far this season. Patel provides a steady, ever-reliable hand on the tiller throughout the middle overs; he takes wickets, stems the flow of boundaries and can produce useful late runs with the bat. In short, Patel is the ideal Twenty20 player.
For Yorkshire it is hard to look past the importance of Glenn Maxwell to their chances. When on form and in a confident mood the Australian is one of the most destructive short format batsmen in the world (he currently has a competition strike rate of 170). He combines convention with invention and has the ability to hit the ball to any chosen spot from ball-one. After a difficult start to his Yorkshire career he made 92 not out against Notts and appears to have regained his mojo.
The Bears have named a familiar-looking side with an experienced, if not explosive batting line-up reliant on William Porterfield and Ian Bell. The fast bowling is less established and can be erratic with Boyd Rankin likely to lead Recordo Gordon and Oliver Hannon-Dalby.
Birmingham Bears squad: Varun Chopra (c), Tim Ambrose (wk), Keith Barker, Ian Bell, Rikki Clarke, Laurie Evans, Recordo Gordon, Oliver Hannon-Dalby, Ateeq Javid, Tom Lewis, Jeetan Patel, William Porterfield, Josh Poysden, Boyd Rankin.
Yorkshire are resting Gary Balance ahead of Monday’s County Championship match with Nottinghamshire at Headingley. Jonny Bairstow, who played in England’s final ODI against New Zealand at Chester-le-Street, may not be available for selection, but given Andrew Hodd’s 70 from 39 balls against Notts, that may not be too much of a hindrance.
Yorkshire Vikings squad: Andrew Gale (c), Tim Bresnan, Aaron Finch, Matthew Fisher, Ryan Gibson, Andrew Hodd (wk), Jack Leaning, Alex Lees, Glenn Maxwell, James Middlebrook, Steve Patterson, Richard Pyrah, Will Rhodes.
Weather and conditions
The game should avoid any rainfall and the forecast is for overcast conditions throughout. Edgbaston tends to produce pitches with plenty of runs, and with a large outfield the onus will be on the batsmen to perform. However, with heavy rainfall on Saturday, the pitch may offer more for the bowlers.
Birmingham Bears: LWWWW
Yorkshire Vikings: WLLLW
Date: 21st June 2015
Umpires: Nigel Cowley & Jeff Evans
Odds (via SkyBet): Birmingham 11/10, Yorkshire 8/11