First Team Coach Jim Troughton expects Birmingham Bears to challenge hard in the Vitality Blast in 2019 having shown last season that they can “dominate” teams.
The Bears’ 2018 campaign ended early after they failed to qualify from a group stage in which their hopes of progressing were torpedoed by inconsistency.
They finished sixth in the North Group having won six and lost seven of their 14 games. That patchy record was especially infuriating because when the Bears were good they were spectacularly good, completing an emphatic double over Notts Outlaws and handing Yorkshire Vikings an eight-wicket thrashing.
“Last year when we married batting and bowling together we dominated teams and were winning by seven or eight wickets,” Troughton said. “It was a bitterly disappointing not to qualify because we took Notts, the holders, down twice and beat Yorkshire but had a poor run at home that ruined our chances.
“We had a couple of injuries to important members of our bowling attack – Henry Brookes and Olly Stone – and saw very little of Chris Woakes, so were often juggling for overs. Even the year before, when we finished runners-up, I felt we were looking for four or eight overs, last year we were definitely looking for eight.
“We only batted first once in the competition which was bizarre, and not through design, which meant that at half-time we often felt like we would need the perfect batting display.”
“We were inconsistent – but I think that can be remedied quite quickly. T20 cricket is quite volatile in that way.”
The Bears’ recent record in T20 remains strong with three Finals Day appearances in the last five years. Troughton intends his team to make it four in six this summer but knows that, in a long, 14-game group stage in a very competitive North Group, there will be bumps along the way.
The successful teams will be those that evolve and improve within the tournament itself, as the Bears did to spectacular effect when they won the tournament in 2014 and again when they reached the final two years ago.
“In 2014 we went into the last group game depending partly on results elsewhere but it went our way and we got on a roll that took us all the way to the trophy,” Troughton said. “Last time we got to the final, in 2017, some of the cricket we played in the group stage was pretty poor but then we managed to find a formula, our batting became very powerful and we got some nice momentum at the back end and rode that wave all the through to the final. It was an incredible turnaround.
“You don’t want to be putting yourself under that sort of pressure every year but momentum at the back end is very important.”