On a fine, warm evening and in front of a crowd of over 16,000, Worcestershire Rapids made light of a target of 185, beating Birmingham Bears by nine wickets in just 18.3 overs.
As he has been so often, Moeen Ali proved to be the Bears’ nemesis, powering his way to 85 off just 46 balls with seven fours and six sixes.
With 14 points from 11 games, the defending champions look well placed to qualify for the quarter finals, whereas the Bears on nine points look to have a struggle on their hands.
Martin Guptill – in his last match of the season for the Rapids – set the scene for Moeen in an opening stand of 50 with Riki Wessels who went on to add 138 with Moeen at ten an over.
Moeen hit powerfully to leg and seemed to have put his international woes behind him. As well as his runs, he bowled at least one perfect off break that defeated Will Rhodes, who had a miserable game – out for one and then hit for 19 in his only over.
The Bears’ bowling attack, featuring three off-spinners, had little to offer other than a hope and maybe the odd prayer.
Possibly if one of the two consecutive lbw appeals that Chris Green had against Wessels had been upheld, the match might have gone differently. But the reality is that the margin between the sides was just too great. And spare a thought for Hamish Rutherford who rushed all the way from New Zealand to play for the Rapids but never even got to the crease!
The Bears must have felt that their 184-5 gave them a half decent chance of a win. Sam Hain (46 off 37 balls), Adam Hose (48 off 23), Matt Lamb (35 off 22) and Michael Burgess (28 off 18) all made good contributions. In truth, the Rapids’ bowling was not much more inspiring than the Bears’. But no-one really was able to take it by the scruff of the neck in the same way that Ali did.
It was good to see Worcestershire wicket keeper Ben Cox standing up to the fast medium bowlers; and as well as inhibiting the batsmen, he claimed a stumping off Ed Barnard when Dom Sibley was hit on the pads and wandered out of his crease as Cox took the ball.
The Rapids will travel happily back down the M5, clutching not only two points but also the Norman Gifford trophy which always goes to the winners of these derby contests.