Photo: Ian Smith
Worcestershire Rapids kept alive their slim hopes of reaching the NatWest T20 quarter-finals with a five wicket victory over local rivals Birmingham Bears after some explosive hitting from Ross Whiteley.
The Rapids ended a run of five successive defeats in completed matches and completed a double over their neighbours to retain the Norman Gifford Trophy. Some explosive hitting by Ross Whiteley enabled the Rapids to reach their 165 target with four balls to spare.
He showed the form which brought him 29 sixes in last season's competition in smoting an unbeaten 42 off 20 balls with four sixes and three fours. Now the Rapids must now defeat Derbyshire Falcons in their final North Group match and hope other results go their way if they are to reach a fourth quarter-final in five years.
In contrast, Birmingham have now lost three matches in a row in the competition to undermine their own hopes of a last eight spot.
Worcestershire were immediately on the back foot as they lost three wickets inside the first four overs. Tom Kohler-Cadmore (4) clipped Rikki Clarke into the hands of deep mid wicket, Joe Clarke (10) played on to Oliver Hannon-Dalby and Joe Leach (3) sliced Recordo Gordon to backward point. Brett D'Oliveira, who this week earned his first England Lions call-up, and skipper Daryl Mitchell tried to repair the damage as their half century stand came up in seven overs.
The Rapids needed 95 off the final 10 overs and Mitchell targeted the first over from Aaron Thomason to increase the tempo, striking two sixes as the all-rounder conceded 19 overs. The return to the attack of Clarke ended a stand worth 76 in nine overs as D'Oliveira (28) skied a comfortable catch to Josh Poysden at backward square leg.
Mitchell reached his half-century off 29 balls with two sixes and four fours but Clarke also brought about his downfall on 61 as he drilled a catch to Sam Hain at mid off. But then Whiteley moved into overdrive with support from Ben Cox to turn ther game in ther Rapids favour. Birmingham appeared to be heading for a score in excess of 200 after reaching 120-1 in the 12th over. But a dramatic collapse saw nine wickets fall for just 35 runs and the Bears were bowled out for 164 in 19.3 overs.
Australian wicket-keeper Matthew Wade led the initial onslaught for the visitors in his second T20 appearance for the Bears. He raced to a half century off just 23 balls with the aid of three successive sixes over long on off spinner D'Oliveira in an over costing 25 runs. Wade and Sam Hain plundered 103 in just nine overs for the second wicket.
But the Rapids struck back once Wade, having made 74 off 32 deliveries, was caught by Rhodes at long-on off Ed Barnard. Rhodes then came into the attack and in his second over picked up three wickets as Laurie Evans (8), Hain (46) and Clarke (1) all perished to the off spinner. Ateeq Javid (6) was run out attempting a second run in the next over from Rhodes before Mitchell pulled off a fine one-handed catch at mid wicket to account for Jeetan Patel (0). Rhodes finished 4-13 from three overs in only his second T20 appearance before Henry (3-15)polished off the innings with two wickets in his final over of his current spell at New Road.