On the long road back to Durham the Jets may well ponder the fact that, for all but three overs of this T20 Blast contest, honours were pretty even. To be sure, their batsmen had struggled to record a semi-competitive total of 158-9. But they managed to reduce the Bears to 36-4 at the end of the Powerplay. And after nine overs, the Bears were still struggling at 57-4. Then came those three overs in which Adam Hose and Chris Benjamin plundered 51 runs. After that, it was plain sailing for the Bears who won with more than three overs to spare.
On a grey and cold day more reminiscent of early April than late May, the Durham innings never really took off. Only Paul Coughlin with 40 off 33 balls made any significant contribution. He and Scott Borthwick added 43 for the sixth wicket. Graham Clark, Michael Jones and David Bedingham all made double figures but couldn’t go on to a significant score.
Although there were one or two untidy fumbles, the Bears fielded well, caught securely and converted many possible twos into singles. This was particularly important because the pitch was in the centre of the square and the boundaries set fairly well back – no easy fours or sixes to be had.
Danny Briggs and Craig Miles were the pick of the bowlers, with four wickets between them for 52 off their eight overs. Henry Brookes was expensive but bowled both in the Powerplay and at the death – and he managed to claim three wickets.
Then the Bears managed even more of a stuttering start. After a short rain delay during the first over, Brydon Carse yorked Jacob Bethell and Rob Yates gave a very good impersonation of a young man totally out of form. Paul Stirling hit a long hop into the hands of cover and Alex Davies failed to benefit from being dropped at slip off Carse, skying the next ball to backward point.
Well though Adam Hose played, he was totally overshadowed by Chris Benjamin who showed a stunning range of shots – powerful drives, cuts, pulls and cheeky reverse sweeps. He reached his fifty off 22 balls with six fours and four sixes. He is indeed a rare talent! Such was the acceleration that, after Hose fell for 29, Carlos Brathwaite was able to take plenty of singles as well as the odd boundary in steering the Bears to their win.
Brydon Carse and Liam Trevaskis shared four wickets but also leaked 73 runs as Durham failed to stem the runs flowing from Benjamin’s bat.
This win gives the Bears three in a row, whereas the Jets have lost twice in three outings. It’s early days for prediction but the Bears clearly have their sights set on Finals Day.