Patel: “We’ve made some good strides as a group”

Captain Jeetan Patel is "really looking forward" to Birmingham Bears' Vitality Blast campaign - and hopes to have a full squad to pick from as stars Ian Bell and Olly Stone continue their recovery from injury.

Club captain Patel will lead the Bears in T20 for the first time this year, last year’s skipper Grant Elliott having retired.

It is a challenge that he will relish, not least for the chance to help further bring on the young players fledging in the Birmingham squad.

"We had some tough lessons in the one-day comp but have grown and, going forward, have to keep expressing ourselves in white-ball cricket."

Jeetan Patel

Those players helped galvanise the Bears’ season last week with a brilliant Specsavers County Championship win over champions Surrey. The likes of Rob Yates, Liam Banks and Adam Hose put the quest for personal stats aside to chase quick runs on the final morning to set up the victory bid – and that is just the sort of selfless mentality that Patel loves to see.

“The Surrey game was huge, not just for us to get over the line but also the way we played a tough brand of cricket against the champions at their own game and were better than them at it,” he said.

“On the last morning we batted selflessly and I think anyone who watched that game would have been really proud of the Bears, at seeing 11 guys who will do whatever is necessary for the team.

“We have made some good strides as a group this season. We had some tough lessons in the one-day comp but have grown and, going forward, have to keep expressing ourselves in white-ball cricket. These guys really want to showcase how good they are and T20 is a great format to do that in.”

With the likes of Yates, Banks and Ed Pollock on board, Birmingham will go into the Blast campaign armed with plenty of vibrant young talent. But alongside the young guns, the Bears will be looking for match-winning contributions from their big names: Patel, Bell, Stone and Australian all-rounder Ashton Agar.

“We have signed a very professional guy in Ashton who will offer us lots with bat and ball and in the field,” said Patel, “and we could have pretty much a full squad available which would be fantastic.

“It’s been tough so far this season not having some of our key players but that’s cricket, every side has to deal with that. What I have seen from the injured guys is a real desire to get back into the team and perform and help take this team to the next level.

“If we take that into the T20 environment who knows where we can go?”

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