Birmingham 175 for 9 (Pollock 50, Elliott 32, de Grandhomme 30) beat Glamorgan 164 (Rudolph 65, Stone 3-29, Woakes 3-40) by 11 runs
A few weeks ago, Ed Pollock was such a peripheral part of Birmingham’s plans that the club’s director of sport, Ashley Giles, admits he had never seen him play.
But, just six weeks after making his first team debut for the club, Pollock has booked Birmingham’s place in the final of the NatWest Blast with a rapid half-century that set the platform for an 11-run victory over Glamorgan.
Pollock, a 22-year-old graduate of Durham MCCU and Shrewsbury School, scored every one of the first 39 balls of the Birmingham innings and went on to register a 23-ball half century. It was his third half-century in eight T20 innings and provided further vindication of the decision to prefer Pollock and co. to players of international experience such as Ian Bell and William Porterfield.
For this was a victory built largely on the boldness and athleticism of Birmingham’s young side. With six men in the side aged 24 or under, Birmingham defended their total with some outstanding fielding and some impressive pace bowling from Olly Stone, who exceeded 90 mph and hurried even Glamorgan’s most experienced batsmen.
Four of Pollock’s first deliveries were struck for six with a slog-sweep for six off Colin Ingram followed by successive heaves back over Mike Hogan’s head and a flick over square-leg off Marchant de Lange. When de Lange pitched short, Pollock pulled with power and by the time Birmingham brought up their 50, Dominic Sibley had provided just three of the runs.
While Birmingham lost their way a little after Pollock’s departure – they lost three for 36 in the six overs after the powerplay – Grant Elliott and Colin de Grandhomme ensured the early impetus was not lost with a stand of 46 for the fifth-wicket.
Still, Glamorgan could feel well satisfied with their effort in the field. They clawed their way back into the game after Pollock’s early blast with Craig Meschede especially impressive in a four-over spell full of control and variation. Birmingham’s final total of 175 was probably no better than par on what appears to be an excellent surface for batsmen.
Just as important as Pollock’s half-century was Birmingham’s catching at the start of the Glamorgan reply. Sam Hain clung on to an outstanding catch – running round the mid-wicket boundary, he threw himself into a diving catch and, after seeing the ball bobble out of his grasp for a moment, somehow managed to cling on with his left hand – to account for Aneurin Donald, before Grant Elliott held on to an equally brilliant effort – running back from mid-on, he dived full-length and held on to the ball inches off the turf – to dismiss the dangerous Colin Ingram.
It was a key moment. Of the 17 times Ingram has faced 20 balls or more in this competition over the last two years, Glamorgan have only lost three times. With David Miller falling almost immediately, edging an attempted drive, Glamorgan were 39 for 3 with their most dangerous batsmen gone.
While Jacques Rudolph, who made an accomplished 65 in his last match before retirement, and Graham Wagg kept Glamorgan in the game, another outstanding piece of fielding by Aaron Thomason ended their sixth-wicket stand of 50. Fielding a drive from Wagg off his own bowling, Thomason – a 20-year-old all-rounder who has impressed with his composure as much as his all-round skills this season – had the presence of mind to flick the ball back towards the non-striker’s end where Rudolph was out of his ground. It all but ended Glamorgan’s realistic hopes of reaching the T20 domestic final for the first time.
With Jeetan Patel typically frugal – his second over cost just one run – and Olly Stone offering notably sharp pace that consistently exceeded 90 mph, even Andrew Salter’s late assault (he took 14 off the first three balls of the final over bowled by Woakes before he was caught on the long-on boundary as two fielders dangerously converged) was not enough.