Match Preview: Birmingham Bears vs Lancashire Lightning
Birmingham Bears v Lancashire Lightning
Vitality Blast, North Group
Friday June 18, 2021, 6.30pm
Lancashire’s fourth away game on the trot sees them return to the West Midlands, not far from where their road trip started on Sunday when they faced Worcestershire at New Road.
The Red Rose are bidding for a second win of the week and to recover from last night’s defeat against Durham at the Riverside when they could not defend a 152 target and lost by six wickets.
While last night’s opponents Durham were one of county cricket’s form teams, the Bears are arguably the form team on the English domestic scene, with new coach Mark Robinson leading them to the summit of both competitions at present.
Warwickshire are top of Group One of the County Championship having won four of their eight games, and Birmingham - the county’s T20 moniker - have won four of five games in the North Group and sit top.
A win would be fourth-placed Lancashire’s fourth in six games in all and would consolidate their place in the top four.
The top four teams in the North Group all play each other, with second-placed Yorkshire and Durham in third meeting at Headingley.
The Lightning have not won a group stage match against Birmingham at Edgbaston since 2015, the glorious title-winning summer.
It may be that captain Dane Vilas and coach Glen Chapple consider a change or two after a second defeat in three games last night.
It is difficult to know what the Edgbaston pitch will play like given this is their first T20 home game of the summer.
Past games there have been mixed. Lancashire’s last trip to Edgbaston for a group game was a high-scoring game in 2019, while they were bowled out for 102 on a slow turner in 2018.
This is the last of the six fixtures which Jos Buttler and Liam Livingstone are available for before England duty.
The Bears have employed powerful West Indies all-rounder Carlos Brathwaite as one of their two overseas players, the other being South African batsman Pieter Malan.
After losing their opening game to Yorkshire at Headingley last week, the Bears have beaten champions Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Northamptonshire and Leicestershire.
Tonight is their first Blast game at Edgbaston this season. The first five have been away from home because of England’s Test Match against New Zealand at Birmingham last week.
Sam Hain, their leading run-scorer last season with 284, has started this season superbly with 251 in their five games, including three half-centuries.
Captain Will Rhodes is their only other player to pass 100 runs.
Brathwaite has taken nine wickets for a team who finished third in last season’s Central Group, only to narrowly miss out on the quarter-finals.
Left-arm spinner Danny Briggs, who moved from Sussex ahead of this season, is the leading wicket-taker in Blast history with 180 in 157 career matches.
He has taken eight wickets this season alongside left-arm wrist spinner Jake Lintott.
Mark Robinson took over ahead of the season having replaced long serving head coach Jim Troughton, who is now on the Somerset coaching staff.
Robinson is a former County Championship title winning coach with Sussex and led England’s women to the glorious one-day World Cup win final win over India at Lord’s in the summer of 2017.
These two haven’t met since 2019, owing to Coronavirus forcing a change in the groups last season.
Two summers ago, the Bears claimed the honours in the only fixture played, at Edgbaston in August.
They won an entertaining contest by 15 runs having posted 179-6 thanks to half-centuries for Dom Sibley and Adam Hose. Lightning spinners Matthew Parkinson and Liam Livingstone claimed three wickets apiece.
In reply, Lancashire’s chase was undermined by an early stutter to 28-3 before a 107 partnership between Keaton Jennings (35) and Glenn Maxwell (79) rekindled hope.
The departure of Australian Maxwell, bowled by Will Rhodes, was a key moment at 135-4 in the 16th and the visitors finished on 164-7.
The return fixture at Emirates Old Trafford just under a week later was abandoned without a ball bowled.
What they said:
“We bounced back in our last game after losing, so hopefully we can do the same again.”
Captain Dane Vilas has full faith in Lancashire’s ability to go and win at Edgbaston last night.
A defeat at Worcester on Sunday was followed by a win at Derbyshire on Tuesday. A defeat at Durham last night….let’s hope the recent trend continues.
Vilas had no complaints about Lancashire’s loss in the North East having posted 151-6 after opting to bat first.
Durham all but killed the game within the six-over powerplay in their chase, reaching 74-0.
"We didn't have enough runs on the board,” was the skipper’s assessment.
“I thought in the middle overs they squeezed us with their spinners, and we couldn't get runs away. In the end, we were about 20 runs short, especially with the way they played in the powerplay."