CRICKET: BIRMINGHAM Bears’ valiant Natwest T20 Blast campaign ended in defeat on Saturday night as they crashed to a 22-run loss against Nottinghamshire in the final at Edgbaston.
After defeating Glamorgan by 11 runs in the first semi-final, the Bears faced the Outlaws who overcame Hampshire earlier that day to make it an all north group final.
In front of more than 24,000 fans, the Bears put Nottinghamshire into bat.
The Outlaws were restricted in the opening overs, losing three wickets in nine balls from England international Chris Woakes.
But the visiting side recovered well as Samit Patel (64) and Brendan Taylor (65) put on a stand of 132 in 80 balls.
Dan Christian then came out swinging to take 23 from the final over and give the Bears plenty to do.
Chasing 191 to win, Bears lost openers Sibley, yorked by Harry Gurner and Ed Pollock, run out by Patel’s direct hit, with just 16 on the board.
When Adam Hose missed an attempt to cut Jake Ball, it was 36/3.
Successive straight sixes from Sam Hain into the pavilion got the Bears moving but Elliott fell lbw to Christian and Birmingham reached the halfway stage at 72/4, needing 119 from ten overs.
Colin de Grandhomme (27, 19 balls) offered Hain good support but was bowled by Gurney and, with Hain clearly hampered by a leg injury, the required run-rate escalated.
After Hain was caught at mid-off the Outlaws closed out victory in efficient fashion despite resistance from Aaron Thomason (26, 13 balls).
Sport director Ashley Giles was full of praise for his Bears side despite having to settle for runners-up spot.
He said: “Credit to Notts, they played excellent T20 cricket.
“The partnership between Samit Patel and Brendan Taylor was extraordinary. At 35/3, we had them, but they wrestled it back.
“They also bowled very well. Jake Ball looked a class act and how Harry Gurney didn’t get man of the match for taking four wickets for just 17 runs in such a high-scoring game I don’t know.
“But I am really proud that we got that close and there are very good signs for us. We are playing a different game to the T20 cricket we were playing just a few weeks ago and I am really proud that we have been able to make that transition.
“The four guys at the top order have come in and done really good things.
“Olly Stone has come back from long-term injury and played a big role and our two overseas guys have been fantastic.
“We put a lot of work into getting Grant and Colin and they have repaid us massively.
“With their experience alongside our young crop of young players it has given us a really nice balance.
“Ed Pollock has been the find of the year, internally. He has come in and played brilliantly and with no fear and now we need to continue in that mode.”
Now Giles and first-team coach Jim Troughton, having steered the Bears to runners-up spot in their first Blast campaign in charge, intend to keep the team improving and challenging – to hopefully go one better and lift the trophy in 2018.
“Both forms of white-ball cricket are moving on so quickly, year by year, and we have got to embrace that,” said Giles.
“This was the highest-scoring Finals Day which shows how the game is moving on.
“It’s not just a question of trying to keep pace, it’s about trying to get ahead. That’s what we will be trying to do. And I think we are building a squad capable of doing it.”
Pictures: Manjit Narotra.