NORTHAMPTONSHIRE STEELBACKS (A) – 19 JUL 2016
This could be a tricky assignment, late in the group, for Birmingham Bears against the side that knocked them out of the NatWestT20Blast in the semi-finals last year.
Like their east Midlands neighbours Leicestershire Foxes, the Steelbacks have often been hard to beat in the shortest format. Winners of the tournament in 2013 they came close again last season before having to settle for runners-up spot behind Lancashire Lightning.
"The Bears’ happy memories of Wantage Road go back a long way."
There is always a big contingent of travelling Bears fans at T20 games at Wantage Road and they have seen some spectacular action over the years. In the tournament’s inaugural year, 2003, Steelbacks seamer Ben Phillips discovered the hard way that it is a merciless format for bowlers as he harvested 4-0-56-0.
Three years later came proof that spin can be a most potent weapon in T20. Over the years the Bears have had some superb exponents of the slow-bowling art in the format – Brad Hogg, Ian Salisbury, Ant Botha, Jeetan Patel. In 2006 it was Ian Westwood who twirled the Bears to a 24-run won with a mesmerising array of skilfully-flighted variations which bamboozled the batsmen for a haul of three for 29.
The Bears’ happy memories of Wantage Road go back a long way, of course. It was at that ground, 105 years ago, that the club sealed its first ever senior trophy, the County Championship, under the captaincy of the great Frank Foster.
Now then, F.R.F – flamboyant batsman, attacking left-arm swing-bowler and brilliant fielder. What a T20 performer he would have been!