Birmingham Bears launched their NatWest T20 Blast campaign in style, and claimed the Norman Gifford Trophy with a crushing eight-wicket victory over Worcestershire Rapids in the big derby at New Road.
Grant Elliott, Colin de Grandhomme and Olly Stone made their debuts as the Bears lifted the Norman Gifford Trophy to the delight of their fans in a full house at New Road.
After choosing to bowl, Birmingham restricted their arch-rivals to 152 for nine, thanks mainly to Rikki Clarke (three for 20), Olly Hannon-Dalby (three for 33) and Jeetan Patel (two for 18).
Ian Bell (75 not out, 55 balls, eight fours and a six) and Sam Hain 47 (36 balls, six fours, one six) then added 98 for the first wicket and the captain, back after an elbow injury, unfurled a classy innings to see his side home with six balls to spare.
The Bears started superbly thanks to Rikki Clarke who bowled his stint straight through for 4-0-20-3. He made the breakthrough when Joe Clarke skied to Olly Stone at mid-on, then Daryl Mitchell lofted to Sam Hain at deep square leg and Brett D’Oliviera fell lbw.
That was 45 for three and a brake was kept on by a distinctly rapid first spell for the Bears by Stone before Jeetan Patel struck with his second ball, trapping Joe Leach lbw through an attempted sweep.
Patel then won the first battle of the Black Caps when he bowled Mitchell Santner.
That was 66 for five and the first ten overs had contained just six fours but Ben Cox and Ross Whiteley counter-attached vividly to add 78 in 42 balls before Olly Hannon-Dalby dominated the last nine balls of the innings with a catch and three wickets.
Firstly he took a stinging catch at short third man off De Grandhomme to end Cox’s innings at 43 (27 balls). Then he delivered a superb death-over which conceded just five runs and brought three wickets as Whiteley (40, 26 balls), John Hastings and George Rhodes sent up catches.
The Bears’ reply was spectacularly launched by Hain with two fours and six in the second over, from John Hastings. The next saw Bell send two delicious cover-drives off Joe Leach to the boundary beneath the chestnut trees and the openers had 50 on the board in the sixth over.
The opening stand reached 98 from 67 balls before it was ended by a running mix-up when Hain embarked on a second run that wasn’t there and was beaten by Ed Barnard’s throw.
William Porterfield was stumped for just five but Bell reached his half-century from 39 balls and Elliot (18 not out, 14 balls) joined the skipper to time the pursuit to perfection with an unbroken stand of 45 in 32 balls.