CRICKET: Bell can’t wait for top of the table clash with Steelbacks

Ian Bell captain of Birmingham Bears

Ian Bell captain of Birmingham Bears

Mouthwatering clash between Bears and Northamptonshire

Birmingham Bears will face fellow NatWest T20 Blast high-fliers Northamptonshire Steelbacks on Friday knowing that victory would lift them over their opponents back to the top of the North Group.

Ian Bell in action

Ian Bell in action

A mouth-watering clash brings together two T20 powerhouses of recent years with vital points and momentum to play for in front of a big crowd at Edgbaston.

And captain Ian Bell can’t wait for the game to arrive in a hectic period of the season from which he wants the Bears to emerge into the Blast quarter-finals and also a position to challenge in all formats.

“We are all really looking forward to the Northants game because we have had some great T20 tussles with them over the years,” Bell said. “It is a top-of-the-table clash, with a big crowd promised, and the sort of game every player wants to play in.

“We have played some strong T20 cricket this season, though we can still be better, and now we need to keep going.

“We are into a really busy period and the exciting thing is that at the end of these few weeks, if we have reacted better than anyone else in county cricket, and accepted the fact that it is hard, mentally and physically, and do it well, our last chunk of the season will be very exciting.

“This is the time that can make or break your season. If you are mentally tough you can be involved in all three trophies going into the back end with an opportunity to do something special.”

To feature in a third successive Finals Day at Edgbaston come August 20 would certainly be special and Birmingham will be looking to take a big step towards that with victory over the Steelbacks.

They will hope for some farewell fireworks from Black Caps big-hitter Luke Ronchi in his last game before leaving on international duty. Among the crowd on Friday will be Aussie star Matthew Wade, signed as Ronchi’s replacement, who will make his Bears debut against Yorkshire Vikings at Headingley next week.

Bell would love his side to impress the incomer by making it six wins from eight games as they chase success on all fronts.

“We are one of the few clubs that strives to compete in all three formats,” the skipper said. “We don’t identify one more than the others - we go out there every game to do whatever we can to win in all three trophies.

“Some counties identify T20 or championship cricket and use the other formats to blood players but we are very much of a mind that within our squad we have a capability to push for all three.”

Tickets for Birmingham Bears versus Northamptonshire Steelbacks are priced for adults at £19 until midnight on Thursday (June 30) £23 on the day) with under 16s FREE when accompanied by an adult. Visit www.birminghambears.com or call 0844 847 1902 to purchase.