T20 Blast: Birmingham Bears face crucial period, says Dougie Brown

Birmingham Bears
The Bears are T20 Blast quarter-finalists, fighting for a last-eight place in the One-Day Cup and are third in the County Championship

T20 Blast holders Birmingham Bears are facing an "enormous" part of the season as they try to defend their title, says director of cricket Dougie Brown.

The Bears take on Essex at Edgbaston in their quarter-final on Thursday keen to put their recent Championship defeat by Hampshire behind them.

"I'm not trying to overstate it, but we've got an enormous couple of weeks coming up," Brown said.

"We've played some good T20 cricket - we have to get back into that mindset."

The Bears go into the match after seeing their outside chance of winning the County Championship suffer a serious setback when they lost by 216 runs to struggling Hampshire.

Birmingham Bears v Essex Eagles
Thursday's game is a repeat of last season's quarter-final between the sides in Chelmsford which the Bears won by 19 runs on their way to winning the title on finals day at Edgbaston.
Essex have won four of their last six quarter-finals, including their last one on the road at Trent Bridge in 2013.
Bears' all-rounder Rikki Clarke has the best economy rate of any bowler to bowl more than five overs in T20 cricket this season (5.19).
Essex have lost their last two away games but have not lost three on the bounce on the road since 2007.

The result saw them slip to third in the Division One table, 50 points behind leaders Yorkshire.

"We've got to forget about that performance. It's a different style of game now," Brown added to BBC Coventry and Warwickshire.

"We need to encourage the guys to free themselves up and go and do what they know they can do - people know their roles and we need to make good decisions under pressure."

Although the Bears will be without New Zealand star Brendon McCullum, they welcome back Ian Bell to their ranks after England agreed to release their players, meaning Ashes-winning captain Alistair Cook is also available for Essex.

"Ian is a more than adequate replacement for Brendon," said Brown.

"'Belly' enjoys his time with the Bears and comes in off the back of that outstanding experience with England again."

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