Sports Editor Oscar Frost previews the Blast quarter final clash between Essex and the Birmingham Bears at Edgbaston
In the quarter final on Thursday (6:30pm), the Bears will take on Essex, who finished fourth in the Vitality Blast South Group. The fact that the Bears were the higher finishers, however, means that they will get home advantage at Edgbaston.
After an incredible seven match winning streak, the Birmingham Bears topped the Vitality Blast North Group. With 22 points from 14 matches, they were an impressive five points above second placed Lancashire Lightning.
Essex made their way to the knockout stages after a nail-biting match against Surrey, which ended with Essex winning on the final ball. Feroze Khushi hit a clutch six to cement their place in the quarters.
Despite the last-ball heroics, Warwickshire will enter the match as clear favourites.
The Bears have been simply outstanding with the ball so far this season. Their bowling attack immediately cemented itself as one of the strongest in the competition, and has only proved itself as such since.
The Bears have taken the third most wickets in the competition with 102. Dan Mousley has taken the 11th most wickets in the Blast, with 20. He has also been backed up by the likes of Jake Lintott and Danny Briggs, who have both added to the spin bowling attack.
The seam attack has also cut mustard to support the spin bowlers. Henry Brookes has arguably been the most successful, taking 12 wickets in 11 matches. Hasan Ali and Chris Woakes also have been able to take a wicket per match so far this season. The new addition of Dominic Drakes for the latter part of the season is also exciting as he will add some more strength to the seam attack to face Essex.
With the bat, the Bears have also not been slacking. Rob Yates has scored the most runs with 447. Fan favourite Sam Hain has also scored over 400 runs, with opener Alex Davies also scoring 334 this season.
Overall, the Bears have been a strong outfit all year, and look to be in good shape to move past Essex in the Blast quarter-final.
However, it is important to remember that the Bears have bowed out of the competition at this stage for the past two seasons in a row. This might stick in the mind of some of the players, but I would imagine that it is more on the minds of the fans than the players.
Essex will certainly not roll over in this one, but the Bears have arguably the strongest squad in the Blast. They also have the momentum of seven wins in a row, but every winning run is one loss away from being lost.
Tickets for Thursday’s fixture are available for just £10 here
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