Birmingham Bears will face Yorkshire Vikings at Headingley tomorrow seeking to regain momentum after following up successive wins with back-to-back defeats in the NatWest T20 Blast.
After four games the Bears are in the middle of a North Group table which remains so tight at this early stage that the four ultimate qualifiers are impossible to spot.
But one certainty is that the successful quartet will be the teams that build winning momentum starting about now – with the weekend ahead bringing a double-header, in the Bears’ case away to the Vikings tomorrow (6.30pm) then against Derbyshire Falcons at Edgbaston on Sunday (2.30pm).
In a 14-game group, such momentum is crucial – and will come from those teams who learn as they progress through the group phase, says Birmingham first-team coach Jim Troughton.
“We need to keep the guys fresh-minded and keep challenging them with their skills and making sure we improve every game,” he said. “It’s a long comp so we need to get the guys peaking at the right time.
“We came out of the blocks really well with two wins but, even within them, we were honest with ourselves and knew we were still not at our best. And we have come up short in the last two games – narrowly, but still short.
“We have identified areas where we need to strengthen and that might confirm some things from last year that we talked about in the winter. We need to make sure we learn early enough from these last two games that we can put ourselves in a good space with the right momentum through the competition.
“It’s been two good performances followed by two okay performances. In T20 you are going to get stung a few times and you need to learn from that.”
"We have had some spinners in during the week so get some more practice against them because I think teams might come at us with the same tactic."
One focus for practice this week has been batting against slower bowlers after Leicestershire Foxes’ array of spin and slow-medium played a vital role in their side’s victory.
“We have had some spinners in during the week so get some more practice against them because I think teams might come at us with the same tactic.” Troughton said. “Last Sunday’s game was the first in a while where we have lost two wickets in the first powerplay, and to a part-time spinner, so that’s an issue and we need to put it right.
“There are certain things we are working on, but T20 is volatile. You can look at powerplays and phases of a game where you won and lost it, but an innings like Luke Ronchi’s on Sunday is a game-changer. Sometimes, one bloke can turn a game on its head and we have certainly got players capable of doing that.”
Tomorrow’s visit to Yorkshire Vikings will be tough and then it will be back to Edgbaston on Sunday for a duel with Derbyshire Falcons when Troughton knows his players can expect noisy, and much-appreciated, backing.
“The support at the home games so far has been great,” he said. “We are always really well-supported at Edgbaston and the players appreciate it massively. Hopefully there will be even more in for the Derbyshire game and we will be doing absolutely everything we can to give the fans a win.”
- Ian Bell (Captain)
- Tim Ambrose (Wicket-Keeper)
- Keith Barker
- Colin de Grandhomme
- Grant Elliott
- Sam Hain
- Oliver Hannon-Dalby
- Ateeq Javid
- Jeetan Patel
- Ed Pollock
- William Porterfield
- Josh Poysden
- Boyd Rankin
- Aaron Thomason