T20 Blast: Birmingham Bears make their name at Twenty 20

By Ged ScottBBC Sport
The Bears squad, including retiring Warwickshire skipper Jim Troughton, celebrate their success at Edgbaston
The Bears squad, including retiring Warwickshire skipper Jim Troughton, celebrate their success at Edgbaston

So all it took was a simple change of name then?

A decade of failure for Warwickshire at Twenty20 cricket was all forgotten in the space of one memorable day at Edgbaston as the Birmingham Bears brilliantly put their name on the T20 Blast trophy.

The Edgbaston marketing men had good cause to rub their hands, count their pounds and pennies and say "job well done" as the rebranded Bears finally brought home the bacon - and all on home soil too, in front of an adoring capacity 25,000 crowd.

"To win in front of your own supporters is incredible," the Bears' England Test star Ian Bell told BBC WM. "Especially here. A full house at Edgbaston is not bettered anywhere in the world."

Of course, in reality, it took a lot more than a name change for the Bears to finally enjoy success in a competition that had previously caused them nothing but misery and frustration.

The release of Test players Bell and Chris Woakes was a big factor.

So was the chance for the Bears to play on their own ground.

This was the sixth time, in 12 seasons of English Twenty20 cricket, that Edgbaston had been chosen to stage Finals Day. But it was the first time the Bears had been able to get there to take advantage.

And, as Hampshire showed, when they won on their own track at The Rose Bowl in 2010, home advantage is a massive one in such a raucous, highly-charged atmosphere.

But the job still has to be done and the Bears, 7/2 outsiders at the start of the day, made nonsense of the bookies' odds.

There were moments when it looked like it might be too tall an order, most notably when this summer's Twenty20 star Jason Roy was motoring nicely for Surrey in the semi-final - and then much later in the day when the great Andrew Flintoff, held back for Lancashire for too long, looked set to write one more cricketing fairytale.

Flintoff's two successive sixes in the penultimate over off Oliver Hannon-Dalby, coupled with the very real threat of being penalised six runs for a slow over-rate, appeared to have thrown up one last gigantic twist.

Lancashire's Andrew Flintoff congratulates victorious Bears skipper Varun Chopra
Lancashire's Andrew Flintoff congratulates victorious Bears skipper Varun Chopra

"I had the umpire in my ear saying that I had to rush it," Hannon-Dalby told BBC WM. "That just added to the pressure and, when big Fred hit two sixes, it put Woakesie under the pump for the final over, but he handled it."

Indeed, the Bears stayed together, stayed calm and they got the job done by doing just as their director of cricket Dougie Brown said they would - by playing well and as a team.

It said everything that there were several candidates for man of the match in both their semi-final win over Surrey (who had beaten the Bears in the first final in 2003) and their four-run win in the final against Lancashire.

"We knew we were very much the underdogs," Brown told BBC Sport. "But we were actually quietly confident,

"We thought there was something written in the stars for us when Nottinghamshire had beaten Yorkshire in the last group stages - and especially when we then won down at Chelmsford against Essex.

"We knew we were playing good cricket, but we were quite happy for people to talk us down so we could slip under the radar.

The Bears in the Twenty 20
2003 FINALISTS: Lost to Surrey by 9 wkts (beat Leices by 7 wkts in semi)2004 Quarter Finals: Lost to Glamorgan by 5 wkts2005 Quarter Finals: Lost to Surrey on bowl-out2006 Did not qualify: 3rd out of six in Mids/Wales/West Group2007 Quarter Finals: Lost to Lancashire by six runs2008 Quarter Finals: Lost to Kent by 42 runs2009 Quarter Finals: Lost to Sussex by 38 runs2010 Quarter Finals: Lost to Hampshire by 5 wkts2011 Did not qualify: 8th out of nine in North Group2012 Did not qualify: 4th out of six in Mids/Wales/West Group2013 Did not qualify: 4th out of six inMids/Wales/West Group2014 WINNERS: Beat Lancs by 4 runs (beat Surrey by 16 runs in semi)

"Winning the first game was key, particularly from the start Surrey got. But we kept our shape and held our nerve really well.

"As for the final, I don't know if I can sum up my emotions. It was an amazing rollercoaster and at times it was painful watching.

"You go from thinking you've got the game in the bag to thinking 'crikey, Freddie Flintoff has just taken it away from us in two blows'. But credit to the guys. Chris Woakes at the end held his nerve, which is probably more than can be said for me.

"What a performance by everybody. They all played a part. It's been very much a team effort.

"In any tournament, anywhere in the world, you've got to time it well. And we've done just that," added Hannon-Dalby. "We were the form team coming in and we got it right on the day."

What next now for the Bears?

As far as the name change is concerned, it did court a lot of unpopularity from Warwickshire supporters outside Birmingham.

England Test batsman Ian Bell holds the trophy with all-rounder Ateeq Javid
England Test batsman Ian Bell holds the trophy with all-rounder Ateeq Javid

And Bears chief executive Colin Povey admitted in the build-up to Saturday that "it is still very early days for the rebranding of the team name".

But maybe Saturday night's success will prove the clincher.

For Brown, who inherited a team that had just won the County Championship when Ashley Giles departed for England duty in 2012, there is now the pressure-relieving reward of putting silverware in the trophy room.

And, given that Warwickshire are third in the County Championship and face another quarter-final against Essex at Chelmsford in the One-Day Cup, there could yet be more to come.

But that is for the future and Brown's parting message to his players on Saturday night clearly had rather more short-term implications.

"We are meant to be training at 10am on Tuesday morning," said the Scotsman. "Whatever they do between now and then is up to them, but I expect them to be sober at 10am Tuesday - that's my only order."

Top Stories