First-team coach Jim Troughton admitted the batting looked “rusty” after Birmingham Bears suffered a 63-run defeat to Lancashire Lightning in their opening Emirates T20 Tournament group match in Dubai.
After bowling well to restrict Lancashire to 159 for eight (Liam Livingstone 52, 24 balls), the Bears suffered a severe batting collapse from 59 for two to 96 all out.
Ian Bell (30, 25 balls) and Tim Ambrose (23, 26 balls) built a solid platform but then came a collapse redolent of those which Birmingham suffered in the second half of last season’s North group campaign.
“The guys looked a little bit rusty with the bat in this format,” said Troughton. “We have been playing a lot of red-ball cricket on this trip and I think today we suffered from having those two T20 practice matches cancelled earlier in the week.
“I think Livingstone was the difference. He batted really well, like a man who has been out here in these conditions for some time.
“Having said that, we know there are issues to be addressed with our batting in T20. We will get there, but there is no magic formula to turning things round overnight.
“On a positive note, the seamers bowled really well to drag their innings back on what looked like 200 track.”
After the Bears chose to field they struck an early blow when Rikki Clarke trapped Alex Davies lbw with the fourth ball of the innings.
Livingstone then gave the Lightning impetus, striking four fours and four sixes, but after he fell to Olly Hannon-Dalby, the innings lost momentum.
From 88 for two at the halfway stage, Lancashire added 71 for six in the last ten overs as the Bears’ seamers bowled with great control.
Chris Wright led the way with an excellent two for 16 from his four overs, supported by Keith Barker (two for 29), Hannon-Dalby (one for 31) and Clarke (two for 37).
In reply, the Birmingham lost Sam Hain to Jimmy Anderson’s second ball and when Keith Barker, in at number three, fell to the last ball off the second over it was nine for two.
Bell and Ambrose rebuilt with a partnership of 50 in 51 balls but after they were parted no-one else reached double figures against an attack led by Jordan Clark (three for 14) and Stephen Parry (three for 12).
Birmingham now need to win their second group game, against Lahore Qualandars, later today to stand a chance of reaching tomorrow’s final.