All the build up as we near the end of the group stages
BIRMINGHAM Bears must beat Lancashire tonight if they are to have any chance of making the knockout stages of the T20 Blast – and history-maker Jeetan Patel will be the key to their cause.
The Kiwi spinner became the first player to play 100 T20s for the county last Sunday as they kept their qualification hopes alive with an eight-wicket win over Durham.
Not only has Patel now played 100 games in the shortest format, but the last 89 of them have come in a row, and with 112 wickets at 20.87 he has been pivotal to their fine record.
The Bears, champions in 2014 and runners-up in 2015, missed the last eight a year ago but can make amends in a tight North Group on Friday.
And Ashley Giles is confident that the 37-year-old Patel – the joint-top wicket-taker in this year’s competition with 19 scalps and counting – will continue to prove the difference.
“His skills are there for all to see,” said Giles, sport director at Edgbaston. “For any bowler to average six-point-anything per over in T20 over a long period is a phenomenal effort.
“He’s always up for bowling when the heat is on, whether the first over or the last. In all formats he is a real warrior. We are very lucky to have him and it’s great that he’ll be with us next year too.
“When we first signed him, it was a bit of a punt.We didn’t know too much about him and his first spell with us didn’t last long before he got injured.
“But he came back the next year for the T20 and we happened to be without an overseas player for a couple of Championship games so he played in them and took about 15 wickets. That’s when we thought ‘we might have something here.”
Indeed, so impressive has Patel been in his time at the club since first joining in 2009, that Giles struggles to think of a more influential overseas signing.
“I would say Jeets rates among the best overseas players ever seen in county cricket and that’s saying something when you think about the likes of Allan Donald and Malcolm Marshall,” he added. “He’s definitely right up there. You normally associate fast bowlers with being feared but I think Jeets is feared.
“The Player Impact Ratings show him to be consistently the best T20 bowler in the country and for Jeets to perform at that level across all formats year-in, year-out is a remarkable effort, physically and mentally. But he knows his game and body and prepares well and is always keen to help the younger guys too. He’s just a great asset to the squad.”
Derbyshire could have secured their spot in the elite eight by Friday night if they can beat Leicestershire on Thursday, but they will hope to finish on a high against the alreadyeliminated Worcestershire Rapids.
Wayne Madsen has claimed half centuries in three successive matches against Worcestershire although the Rapids have won on three of their last four visits to Derbyshire.
Elsewhere, already-qualified Nottinghamshire could end local rivals Leicestershire’s hopes – if the Falcons haven’t already – with victory at Trent Bridge.
Notts Outlaws go into this game knowing they have registered ten wins in their last 11 home games and with the competition’s top run-scorer in Riki Wessels.
And Northamptonshire – last year’s champions – face Durham in a re-run of last year’s final.
But while the Steelbacks are still in contention this time around, the Jets have sunk without a trace with only three wins and a points deduction leaving them dead last.
The Jets can take hope from the fact that the last four Friday matches hosted by the Steelbacks have all been won by the visiting side but Adam Rossington has posted 40-plus runs in three of his last four innings in Northampton.
History maker: Bears’ spinner Jeetan Patel,
Man in form: Competition top run scorer, Notts Outlaws’ Riki Wessels