Having started the tournament brilliantly last week brilliantly, winning both their matches, the Birmingham Bears Women team headed down to Hampshire (Aldershot CC) for the second round of games of the season in the Vitality T20 Cup for games against Hampshire and Notts Outlaws.
What was supposed to be a bright and mildly sunny day turned into a soggy, overcast annoyance as games were altered or, as in the case of the first match of the day between Hampshire and Nottingham, all play was abandoned without a ball being bowled.
Wet patches caused concern for the Umpires as they delayed the Bears’ first game of the day with play getting underway after an hour and 40 minutes delay as an eight overs per side game.
Winning the toss and choosing to bowl first the Bears went out hoping to continue their winning streak and when Sonia Odedra was caught behind by Gwenan Davies, bowled by Georgia Davis (2-0-11-1), on the second ball of the innings, it looked like Birmingham were off to the flying start they wanted.
However, the main run-scoring partnership between the Graves’, Yvonne and Teresa, saw the Outlaws push toward 31 before the next wicket fell. Y Graves (10) sent the first ball of Anisha Patels two overs straight to the hands of Captain Marie Kelly, giving the Bears the breakthrough they needed.
In the next over, the T Graves (24) was caught and bowled on 44-3 by Jess Couser (2-0-14-1), who was making her first XI debut of the season. The wickets soon came thick and fast as leg-spinner Patel (2-0-12-4) got a hat-trick of wickets dismantling the Outlaws middle order batsmen for 47, with help from quick-thinking wicket keeper Davies stumping Lucy Highman and Sophie Munro.
The Outlaws set the Bears a target of 61-6, and a tense second innings got underway as Davies and Thea Brookes opened the reduced batting overs. Steadily putting on the runs until mid-way through the second over, the pair was cut short on 12 as Brookes was stumped by Polly Inglis on two.
It wasn’t until Kelly and Davies had brought the Bears to 35 that the next wicket was lost, with Rebecca Widdowson taking the catch of Davies, 14. Partnerships continued to form as Kelly and Ria Fackrell added another 20 runs to the total but it just wasn’t quite enough.
Needing 16 from the last over, it wasn’t impossible for the Bears to win but Kelly’s wicket falling on the penultimate delivery meant a six was required from the last ball. Notts only won by five runs, an unfortunate blow to the Bears.
Carrying on after a short break, the Bears faced Hampshire in a tense showdown of the first and second placed teams in Division One.
Birmingham won the toss and chose to bat first, but lost opener Kelly on the second delivery on the game, followed by Fackrell an over later. The Bears were 9-2 in the second over and it didn’t get any easier.
An impressive fielding display from Hampshire challenged the Bears throughout their 20 overs with top scorers Jo Gardner and Couser only just being able to settle, making 18 (35) and 16 (22) respectively to help the Bears get to 95 before they were all bowled out in the 20th over.
Good bowling from Fi Morris (3.4-0-21-3), Charlie Dean (3-0-15-2) and Samantha Betts (4-0-21-4) had made it hard for the Bears to put up a good total. However, they made an ideal start in responsive as Hampshire lost their first wicket also falling on the second delivery of their innings.
Hampshire pushed their total to 35 before the next wicket fell in the sixth over, Maia Bouchier and Betts adding a 34-run partnership. 20 runs were scored by Bouchier, Betts and the Hampshire captain Katie George respectively but the wickets came consistently until Dean and George were able to give Hampshire the win by four wickets,with an over to spare.
Despite Hampshire’s victory there were some fielding highlights, Couser taking four wickets in four overs (4-0-18-4), Patel’s 4-0-10-0 holding Hampshire back and a run-out helping shape the flow of the game.
Going into the next round of the competitions the Bears will be looking forward and hoping to recreate last weekend’s good start with away games at Beckenham versus Kent and Middlesex.