Birmingham Bears will take part in the Emirates Airline T20 Tournament in Dubai over the next two days eager to bank their first silverware of 2017.
But while lifting the trophy would be a very welcome achievement, first team coach Jim Troughton insists the tournament is about much more than winning games. It will be about learning which players are looking best-placed to help the
Bears to success in this summer's NatWest T20 Blast.
The Emirates Tournament starts tomorrow when Birmingham face two group games, against Lancashire Lightning and Lahore Qalandars, on a mission to book themselves a place in Friday's final.
"I think the team we pick for the first game, against Lancashire, will be pretty close to the one we intend to field in T20 this year. Then we'll play it by ear a little bit in terms of selection for the second game."
They were denied some scheduled match-practice yesterday when two pre-arranged T20 warm-ups against Peshawar Zalmi were cancelled at short notice after the Pakistan franchise team encountered logistical difficulties. But with Sam Hain and Josh Poysden back in the fold following their participation in the North v South series, the Bears are keen to put a marker down for their T20 cricket in 2017 with some strong performances.
"It will be great to play some competitive T20 cricket," Troughton said. "Sam and Josh are back with us and it gives us a chance to put into practice what we have been working on very hard during the winter.
"This is a serious tournament. It's being televised here in the UAE and will be very competitive with teams coming hard at us so it will be a really good test. It would be fantastic to lift the trophy and we will be trying our level best to do that but, having said that, it is also a about giving guys opportunities and seeing who puts their hand up to the in the 11 when we play out first game in the Blast in the summer.
"Having the games called off on Tuesday wasn't ideal but quite often on pre-season abroad trips you find things not quite going to plan so you have to be adaptable. We had a good internal practice match and then nets in the afternoon.
"It just means the guys are looking forward to the tournament even more. I think the team we pick for the first game, against Lancashire, will be pretty close to the one we intend to field in T20 this year. Then we'll play it by ear a little bit in terms of selection for the second game."
The tournament will round off the Bears' stay in the UAE before they return to Birmingham on Saturday.
"It's been a really good trip," said Troughton. "In the first week we worked very hard with the red ball because we will be starting the season with three championship matches and then this week it's been great to get the guys freeing up in T20.
"When I took over as captain almost the first thing we did was win the T20 Cup in Barbados. It would be great to do the equivalent in my first tournament as head coach."
Under 16s Go Free
The first batch of tickets for Birmingham Bears NatWest T20 Blast games are now on-sale at the cheapest price of £15 for Adults and completely FREE for Under16s.
Only a limited number of tickets are available at £15 for adults and the price will increase once these have sold out.
Snap up a Season Pass
See the Birmingham Bears in all seven NatWest T20 Blast home games at Edgbaston at just £77. No two games will be the same, with exciting events planned around the cricket for every match, you’ll have a unique experience every time whilst cheering on Ian Bell and the team.
Follow the Bears quest to bring the title back to Edgbaston for 2017.