Fans of Peaky Blinders will know that it is not too difficult to distinguish between your average citizen of Birmingham and a ray of sunshine. This was evidenced by the ripples of discontent that ran round Edgbaston Stadium last week as the Birmingham Bears came a very poor second to their local rivals, the Worcester Rapids. “Tell us about it,” supporters of the Durham Jets might say, having seen their team, too, beaten by the talented young Worcester team who now top the North Group table.
The Bears will be concerned to get their 2016 bid for a third successive Finals Day appearance gets back on track this evening. The marketing team, too, will be hoping that they are not left with the thankless task, like their colleagues across the city at Villa Park, of promoting a failing team. A crowd of over 13,000 last week suggests, at least, that there is a local appetite for Friday night cricket.
Visitors Durham have already bounced back from the Worcester defeat by beating both Lancashire and, two days ago, the Notts Outlaws. They sit in second place in the table. They will also recall that, less than two weeks ago, their four day side visited Edgbaston and pulled off a remarkable victory over the home side, turning a large first innings deficit into a fourth day triumph. So they will return to Edgbaston with some confidence. Following tonight’s match, they make the short trip to Leicester for another game tomorrow, after which they could just top the table.
Bears’ captain Ian Bell has this week expressed his aim of hitting his first T20 hundred. Such statements can prove to be hostages to fortune but the ex-England star can point to two near misses against tonight’s opponents, 85 in 47 balls way back in 2010 and 90 from 65 balls last year. In addition to his batting, Bell’s calmness in a crisis is a key feature of his captaincy and could well be crucial when the Bears are under pressure in the field.
For the Jets, veteran Paul Collingwood remains a vital part of the team. Agaiinst Notts, a rapid 44 from number eight in the order dragged the team to a decent total and then a steady spell of bowling helped to strangle the Notts reply. Like Bell, he is a calming influence amidst all the frenetic activity that is T20 cricket.
The Bears are will be delighted to welcome back to the squad Chris Woakes and Rikki Clarke, each capable of making the kind of match-changing contributions with both bat and ball that were missing against the Worcester Rapids. If Jeetan Patel and Ateeq Javid continue to share the spin bowling duties, leg-spinner Josh Poysden may miss out again. He could be joined on the bench by any two out of Recordo Gordon, Oliver Hannon-Dalby, Boyd Rankin and Mark Adair.
Birmingham Bears squad: Ian Bell (c), Mark Adair, Rikki Clarke, Laurie Evans, Recordo Gordon, Sam Hain, Oliver Hannon-Dalby, Ateeq Javid, Jeetan Patel, William Porterfield, Josh Poysden, Boyd Rankin, Luke Ronchi (wk), Chris Woakes
For the two matches against the Bears and the Foxes, the Jets have added Calum Macleod and Chris Rushworth to the team that thrashed the Notts Outlaws.
Durham Jets squad: Mark Stoneman (c), Phil Mustard (wk), Graham Clark, Michael Richardson, Ryan Pringle, Paul Coughlin, Calum Macleod, Keaton Jennings, Paul Collingwood, Scott Borthwick, Usman Arshad, Barry McCarthy, Chris Rushworth
Birmingham Bears: LW
Durham Jets: WWL
Weather and conditions
It is likely to be a dry, cool evening with a light breeze.
A pitch similar to the one groundsman Gary Barwell produced for last week’s game against the Worcester Rapids would be fine – a little help for bowlers but also rewarding shot-making skills. Slightly more pace and bounce would be better still.
Date: 3 June 2016
Time: 7.00 pm
Ground: Stadium Edgbaston
Umpires: Neil Bainton and Nigel Cowley
Odds (SkyBet): Birmingham 4/6; Durham 6/5