A spectacular innings from 19-year-old Aaron Thomason narrowly failed to avert defeat for a very young Birmingham Bears side in their second Emirates Airline T20 Tournament group game at the ICC Academy in Dubai.
Unlikely to qualify for the final after a heavy defeat in their first game, the Bears gave numerous youngsters, both contracted and non-contracted, an opportunity to impress against Lahore Qalanders.
And sport director Ashley Giles was delighted with the way several seized that opportunity as Birmingham pushed Lahore very close, limiting the Pakistan franchise side to 144 for seven before replying with 138 for six.
"Aaron almost won it for us with the bat. It was innings which showed his ability and what he is capable of and the sort that that we want to see more of from him.."
Left-arm spinner Sunny Singh, from the Bears academy, led the way with the ball. After Lahore chose to bat, the 20-year-old pared away the middle-order to finish with 4-0-23-4. Staffordshire seam-bowler Mitchell Spencer harvested 4-1-16-1 while Sam Grant, a left-arm seamer from Shoreham-by-Sea in Sussex, bowled accurately for 4-0-17-0.
But the Bears were beaten by six runs after a succession of top-order batsmen made a start but did not develop it.
After Alex Mellor (16, 23 balls before running himself out), Sam Hain (20, 18 balls), Ian Bell (13, 16 balls) and Matthew Lamb (15, 22 balls) perished after putting down roots, Birmingham fell behind the clock.
Thomason took them close with a counter-attack which brought the Sutton Coldfield player 44 from 27 balls (five fours and a six). But with 11 needed from four balls, he was run out by the wicket-keeper’s throw, going for a bye, and
Qalanders’ highly-rated young seamer Ehtisham Sultan held his nerve to see his side to victory.
“It was disappointing to lose because we want to win every game we take part in but there was some really encouraging stuff from the young guys out there,” said Giles. “Against a pretty experienced Lahore side, Sunny Singh bowled really well, as did the non-contracted guys.
“One of the reasons we brought the non-contracted lads out here was to see how they would shape up in match conditions and they have all impressed. The batsmen came hard at them today but they showed a lot of character and skill.
“Then Aaron almost won it for us with the bat. It was innings which showed his ability and what he is capable of and the sort that that we want to see more of from him.
“Yes, we are out of the tournament which is disappointing, of course, but we have learned a lot – and the fact is we have got a lot of time yet before the T20 starts for us this summer. A big focus for us this trip has been the red-ball stuff because that’s what we will start the season with in a couple of weeks time.”