Rikki Clarke can't wait to get his teeth into a new NatWest T20 Blast campaign with Birmingham Bears - and believes there are "exciting times ahead" for the team under head coach Jim Troughton and sport director Ashley Giles.

All-rounder Clarke, opening the bowling and batting in the middle order, will be a pivotal figure as always for the Bears in white-ball cricket this season.

Last year he helped Warwickshire to glory in the Royal London One-Day Cup, which they lifted on a wonderful day at Lord's in September.

"We have reached two Finals Days in the last three years by all having roles that we understood and delivered. We've worked very hard on T20 this winter as it's clear that when we all know our roles we play very good T20 cricket"

Rikki Clarke

In the NatWest T20 Blast, however, for the first time in three years, Finals Day took place at Edgbaston without any participating Bears. And after winning the trophy in 2014 and reaching the semi-finals in 2015, Birmingham have a real determination to relive that Finals Day feeling again, according to former England all-rounder Clarke.

"Troughts and Gilo are back in new roles at the club and there's a really positive change," he said. "Things are going in the right direction with exciting times ahead. And there's nothing more exciting in county cricket that T20 Finals Day at Edgbaston - and we want to be part of it again this year.

"Last year was disappointing in the championship and the T20 for us but we still managed to win a trophy. A lot of sides would love to be in that position - but we want to be better."

Birmingham Bears will begin their Blast programme with a derby clash in Worcester on Friday July 7, followed by three home games against Notts Outlaws, Northants Steelbacks and Leicestershire Foxes, giving them a great chance to build some momentum in the 14-game group phase.

Clarke will be a key man, especially with those opening overs with the ball. That is a tough role, with batsmen coming at him hard, but one which he has fulfilled superbly in recent seasons.

Cricket - Natwest T20 Blast - Birmingham Bears v Lancashire Lightning

"Somebody's got to do it!" he said. "That's my role and T20 has gone incredibly well for me in the last four seasons so I'll just try to keep that up and keep my economy rate around six per over or below. Realistically I'm not going to do that all the time, but I'll try.

"Role clarity is very important. We have reached two Finals Days in the last three years by all having roles that we understood and delivered and perhaps we went away from our roles a little bit last year compared to the two years before that. After a great start to the group we only had to win one of the last six and didn't manage to do it which was very disappointing.

"But we have worked very hard on T20 this winter which has been really valuable because it's clear that when we all know our roles we play very good T20 cricket."

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Brian Halford

Brian is Warwickshire's Club Journalist and has reported on the Bears since 2000.