Coming into the final day of the season, the Birmingham Bears Women were still in with a chance of winning the Vitality T20 County Cup, only two points separating first and third. A nerve-wracking day and a wait for results to come in meant the Bears were going to have to make their own destiny.
It was the perfect way to finish the season, beating Lancashire by 20 runs and despite not winning the first game, the Birmingham Bears Women win the Vitality T20 Championship by one point, the first piece of silverware the Bears have ever won, Women or Girls.
Sitting second in the table, one point behind Hampshire and one point above Lancashire, the Bears were in a tough spot, a couple of games to play and with eight points ultimately up for grabs.
Hampshire could win the championship if they were victorious in both of their games, but if they lost one game and the Bears won both of theirs, Birmingham Bears would be champions. The maths doesn’t stop there as Lancashire could win if the Bears and Hampshire lost a match and Lancashire won both then they would be champions.
Despite all this, it was a proud moment for the Bears captain Marie Kelly as she made her 100th cap, presented to her by Warwickshire legend Ian Bell.
Back at home on Portland Road, it wasn’t the start the Bears would’ve hoped for as they lost to Sussex Sharks by 76 runs in their first game of the day, trying to chase 135.
Losing the toss, Birmingham Bears Women were put into bowl first, trying to demolish Sussex’s batting order. But that wasn’t to be despite the best efforts of Georgia Davis (4-0-25-0), Issy Wong (2-0-16-0) and Liz Russell (4-0-18-1), who were able to hold the Sharks back. The runs were piled on though as Sussex were able to find the gaps in the fielding making it 68-1 before a wicket fell.
A mix-up at the bowler’s end saw Georgia Adams run-out by Kelly, stumped by Anisha Patel for 27 (27), breaking the partnership and taking the wicket Birmingham so desperately needed. Number three, Paige Scholfield, couldn’t find her feet at the crease, bowled by Patel (4-0-12-1), for one. Runs didn’t stop coming however, as some mis-fields, dropped catches and beautiful shots from Tara Norris (59*) and Ella McCaughan pushed the Sharks over their century mark and to 120 before the third (and final) wicket fell.
Coming forward, out of her crease to play McCaughan missed the ball and sent it straight into the hands of the keeper Gwenan Davies, stumped for 25 (25). Putting on 14 runs from the 20th over, the target was set for the Bears at 134-3.
Going into bat, Kelly and Davies, last weeks winning run-scorers came out to start the pursuit. Two from the first over shortly became 4-1 in the second as Davies was bowled by Freya Davies (2-0-8-1) for one, compared to a 66* and a 59* in performances last week against Kent and Middlesex.
The next soon followed as Kelly (6) was caught, sending the ball straight into the hands off McCaughan at mid-off, 10-2 and 17-3 as Ria Fackrell was bowled by Chiara Green.
A 19-run partnership was what the Bears needed but couldn’t hold on to as at 36-4 Thea Brookes went out for 16 (23) and Jo Gardner followed shortly for 15 (19). It was downhill from there as the batting collapsed, six wickets fell in 24 balls for seven runs, Nancy Harman (3-0-7-2) and Green (4-1-6-3) cleaning up. The Bears finished on 58, all out with four overs remaining.
It wasn’t all bad news for the Bears as Hampshire also lost their first game of the day meaning it all came down the last, with Lancashire beating Sussex, placing them at the top of the table. If the Bears won and Hampshire lost to Wales, we would win the championship.
The Bears were feeling the nerves heading into the final game, as Captain Kelly won the toss and chose to bat first against the Red Roses. The nerves were pushed to one side as the openers Davies and Kelly took on their opponents at the crease smashing a 36-run partnership from 34 balls before Davies fell, a turn around from their last game.
Another quick wicket of Fackrell, a push for two caused the run-out at 41-2, and Brookes took her place alongside Kelly to set the record straight. Creating a 101-run partnership from 79 balls including an epic six from Kelly who added to the run rate with a mighty 76 from 57 balls and an unfortunate 20-run over from Lancashire’s Hannah Jones (3-0-35-1) set the target of 150 for Lancashire to chase, and win the cup.
Getting off to a flying start, the Red Roses were able to 70-2 in nine overs as they chipped away at the target. It was then that the wickets started falling, three going in five runs and that lit the match that sparked the end for Lancashire.
However, behind the stumps was where the action was happening as Davies had solid hands, helping take five wickets (four stumping’s and a run-out). Reaching 102-8, the partnership between Hannah Jones and Eleanor Threlkeld was the final hope as they tried to push their team to victory. Gardner (4-0-34-1) and Patel (3-0-19-0) tried to take the wickets but ultimately Jess Couser (3-0-21-3) sent the consecutive balls down to Jones (15), caught by Brookes, and Threlkeld (40), caught by Davis (4-0-24-3).
The Bears had beaten the Red Roses by 20 runs, and as Hampshire lost by six wickets to Wales, Birmingham Bears won the Vitality T20 Championship Cup by one point!
An emotional rollercoaster of a day, secured the Bears their first national win with a fantastic team effort. Some incredible performances, and some forgettable ones, throughout the course of the four rounds of T20 games, mean the Bears win five of their eight games as Hampshire finish the T20 season fifth in the table.