Chris Woakes believes that Birmingham Bears will have to produce “nothing but our best” to start their NatWest T20 Blast campaign with victory at Notts Outlaws
The Bears, winners of the Blast in 2014 and semi-finalists last year, launch their 2016 campaign with a tough test away to their Midlands rivals on Friday.
Woakes and his team-mates have sights set on featuring in a third successive Finals Day at their Edgbaston home in August.
But the England all-rounder knows the team they face first, at Trent Bridge, will be one of those fighting hard all the way in what is sure to be a keenly-fought group.
“Notts are one of the stronger teams in the country in T20 cricket,” Woakes said. “I would imagine they’ll be thinking they have under-performed in the last few years in this competition and will be looking to get off to a flying start, as we are.
“We know it will be a tough game and nothing but our best will enable us to beat Notts. But it’s always a great atmosphere at Trent Bridge so there’s no better to start our Blast season.
“A win would give us a great start and the confidence and belief that we can go on and make it to the Finals Day for the third successive year.”
Birmingham’s fortunes on the last two Finals Days could not have been more contrasting.
In 2014 they lifted the trophy in the most spectacular fashion after Lancashire Lightning failed to hit the last ball of the tournament for six. In 2015 they batted first against Northants Steelbacks in the first semi-final and were 14 for four after 20 balls and consigned to defeat almost before the day had begun.
“We have had very different Finals Days but two really good years in the group stage of the competition,” Woakes said. “In 2014 we came under the radar and won it when no-one expected us to. Last year was a bit tougher because teams realised we were a team to beat, so to reach the Finals Day again was even more pleasing with the way we went about our cricket.
“Again this year we know we are going to be looked at as one of the teams to beat so it will be tough but, as we have shown over the past two years, we have a squad to compete. And this year we have Luke Ronchi whose firepower in the middle-order will be fantastic for us.
“We know how amazing Edgbaston is on Finals Day. It is such a great experience not just for us as players but for our supporters and everyone who is there on the day.
“It would be great to get there again. And then, as we have found out in the last two years, it’s all down how it goes on the day. You can play all your best cricket up to the final but on Finals Day it’s whoever performs best and gets a little bit of luck.”
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