WITH a combined winning streak of nine games between Worcestershire Rapids and Birmingham Bears going into this NatWest T20 Blast derby, something had to give.
And, in front of a packed-out, sun-drenched New Road, it was the hosts who provided the fireworks with a stunning triumph over their local rivals with a whopping 33 balls to spare.
Steve Rhodes’ on-song troops extended their superb T20 Blast winning run to six matches with a comprehensive eight-wicket victory.
Although the Bears could only post 133-8 off their 20 overs, their total wasn’t too far below par due to the slow pitch, but the Rapids made a mockery of that to inflict a crushing defeat on the old enemy.
While the home bowlers set the victory up with a disciplined display, skipper Daryl Mitchell once again led from the front.
Having previously played 87 T20 matches in his career without registering a half-century, man of the moment Mitchell (62 not out) went to his third 50 in his last four 20-over knocks, before hitting the winning run.
Jack Shantry made a quickfire double breakthrough when he had Varun Chopra well caught in the deep by Richard Oliver, before he bowled William Porterfield for 14 to make it 25-2.
Vastly-experienced international duo Jonathan Trott and Shoaib Malik kept the scoreboard ticking over, with the Pakistan star moving to a 39-ball half-century.
However, the veteran of 216 ODIs and 59 T20 internationals departed the ball after reaching the milestone when he lofted Colin Munro to the safe hands off Ross Whiteley on the long-on fence.
The Bears struggled to up the tempo throughout their innings, mainly down to the superb spell of four overs for just 10 runs from Saeed Ajmal.
The returning Chris Russell accounted for Trott (39), who miscued a pull shot to Saeed at mid-on, while Rikki Clarke (5) also found Whiteley on the boundary to give Shantry his third wicket.
Whiteley capped a superb fielding display with an arrow-like throw from deep square-leg into the gloves of Ben Cox, who whipped the bails off with Chris Woakes short of his ground.
Russell, who went into the match as the joint leading wicket-taker in the competition, added three more to his impressive tally by having Laurie Evans caught at extra-cover by Tom Kohler-Cadmore off a slower ball bouncer and bowling Ateeq Javid in the final over.
Oliver played on to Malik in the first over of the Rapids’ reply but, after that, Mitchell and Tom Kohler-Cadmore found the boundary with a glittering array of strokes.
The duo brought up their 50-partnership in just 27 balls and took Worcestershire past the half-way stage of their run-chase by putting on 70 in 6.1 overs.
Kohler-Cadmore had a let-off on 25 when Porterfield slipped and missed a catch off Woakes, but the batsman repeated the shot next ball and this time the Bears man made no mistake.
The hundred came up off the first ball of the 11th over and the extra 34 runs required for victory followed in no time at all as Mitchell and Munro (39no) saw the table-topping Rapids home at a canter.