Birmingham Bears will face Lancashire Lightning in a crucial NatWest T20 Blast tussle at Emirates Old Trafford on Friday with their first T20 centurion in their ranks.
As the Bears strive to seal qualification for the quarter-finals, central to the bowling plan, as always, will be Jeetan Patel who became the first player to play 100 T20s for the club when he helped them to an eight-wicket win at Durham Jets last Sunday. Of those 100 appearances, the last 89 have come consecutively (also a Bears record) and overall for the Bears in T20 the New Zealander has taken 112 wickets at just 20.87 runs apiece.
At Durham last weekend he bowled as skilfully as ever, delivering the 20th over of the home side’s innings for just five runs to finish with 4-0-22-2. That performance typified 37-year-old Patel’s enduring excellence across the formats since he arrived at Edgbaston in 2009 when he was first recruited by then director of cricket Ashley Giles.
Since then the off-spinner has been pivotal to the team, helping them win all three major trophies. And Giles, now sport director at Edgbaston, regards the acquisition of Patel eight years ago as one of the best pieces of business he has ever done.
“When we first signed him it was a bit of a punt,” he said. “We didn’t know too much about him and his first spell with us didn’t last long before he got injured. But he came back the next year for the T20 and we happened to be without an overseas player for a couple of championship games so he played in them and took about 15 wickets. That’s when we thought ‘we might have something here.’
"Jeets has been, and continues to be, fantastic for us. "
His skills are there for all to see. For any bowler to average six-point-anything per over in T20 over a long period is a phenomenal effort. He’s always up for bowling when the heat is on, whether the first over or the last. In all formats he is a real warrior.
“We are very lucky to have him and it’s great that he’ll be with us next year too.”
Patel’s T20 form this season has been as good as ever. In Manchester on Friday he will be looking to add to his 19 wickets at 16.37 apiece so far in this season’s tournament.
Back in 2009 his first T20 outing for the Bears came in a five-wicket defeat to Somerset at Taunton where he harvested 4-0-36-0 in an attack also comprising Neil Carter, Chris Woakes, Keith Barker, Ant Botha and Stef Piolet. Two days later he was up and running with his first T20 victim for the Bears, that of Daryl Mitchell in a seven-wicket win over Worcestershire Rapids at Edgbaston. And the Bears legend that is Jeetan Patel began to be written.
“I would say Jeets rates among the best overseas players ever seen in county cricket and that’s saying something when you think about the likes of Allan Donald and Malcolm Marshall,” said Giles. “He’s definitely right up there.
“You normally associate fast bowlers with being feared but I think Jeets is feared. The stats of the Player Impact Ratings show him to be consistently the best T20 bowler in the country and for Jeets to perform at that level across all formats year in year out is a remarkable effort, physically and mentally. But he knows his game and body and prepares well and is always keen to help the younger guys too. He’s just a great asset to the squad.”