The Steelbacks return to the place of their T20 Finals Day success on Thursday night, as they face Birmingham Bears in their latest NatWest T20 Blast match.
The Steelbacks have hit a slight speed bump, having lost their last two games in the competition to Worcestershire Rapids and Yorkshire Vikings.
In the Steelbacks’ last game, they hosted Yorkshire here at the County Ground, in front of a packed County Ground, with 4,600 in attendance. Yorkshire won the toss and elected to bat first and had a great second half to their innings, as Jonny Bairstow smashed an unbeaten 60 from 37 balls and Adam Lyth hit 46 not out from 31 balls. Despite a brilliant 76 from 47 balls for Richard Levi, the Steelbacks were unable to reach their target, as they ended the innings 16 runs short, on 165/9.
In Birmingham’s last match they travelled to Trent Bridge to take on Nottinghamshire Outlaws. Birmingham won the toss and elected to bat first, and thanks to Laurie Evans hitting an unbeaten 46 from 23 balls, Birmingham were able to score 156/5 from their 20 overs. In reply, Birmingham did a great job restricting the Nottinghamshire batsmen. Pakistani all-rounder Shoaib Malik and Recordo Gordon were the pick of the Birmingham bowlers, taking two wickets each, as Nottinghamshire ended on 138/7, losing by 18 runs.
Birmingham rely heavily on their overseas all-rounder Shoaib Malik, who whilst he is impressive with ball, makes an even bigger impact with the bat. A star performer for them this season has been Laurie Evans, 118 runs in four matches, at an average of 59.
This will be an important game for the Steelbacks, as the Bears are formidable opponents, especially at Edgbaston. Furthermore, Birmingham are one place ahead of the Steelbacks in the group, so victory could see the visitors move into a top four place
David Ripley will be taking a 14-man squad to both the Edgbaston and Old Trafford the following day.
James Middlebrook is the only addition the squad that was named to face Yorkshire last week.
Muhammad Azhar Ullah