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Chopra fires Bears into contention

A 29-ball half-century from acting captain Varun Chopra reignited Birmingham Bears' NatWest T20 Blast North Group campaign in a five-wicket win over Worcestershire Rapids in front of a crowd of 12,500 at Edgbaston.

Making light work of a chase to overhaul the Rapids' 175 for six, Chopra put on 73 with Will Porterfield in the first seven overs and went on to 74 in guiding his side to a first victory in six games with four balls to spare.

The Bears' whirlwind start took the game away from Worcestershire as their new-ball bowlers, Jack Shantry and Chris Russell, conceded 60 of the 70 runs taken from the powerplay.

It was only through the wiles of Saeed Ajmal that the Rapids were able to apply some pressure, but, as well as he bowled, taking 3-17, they did not have an alternative threat in their armoury.

Porterfield's dash to 36 from 20 balls, including half-a-dozen fours, ended when caught at cover off Ajmal and Jonathan Webb was stumped in the Pakistan spinner's final Twenty20 shift prior to his country's tour of Sri Lanka. 

Rikki Clarke and Laurie Evans - the latter with the classic six and out - later went in successive overs from the supporting seamers, but, even when Chopra was caught at short third-man in Ajmal's final over, it was too late to stop the Bears. Chopra hit eight fours and two sixes from 49 balls.

Worcestershire's innings was based around a first half-century in the competition for record-breaking schoolboy batsman Tom Kohler-Cadmore.

Last year's Wisden schools cricketer of the year, when he scored 1,409 runs for Malvern College, the 19-year-old right-hander is successfully transferring his potential to the higher stage.

Having topped 50 in the last two four-day games, he reached a similar milestone in the shortest format, hitting three sixes and five fours in galloping to 51 from 34 balls.

The Bears were in a make-or-break situation in terms of progressing to the knock-out stage, whereas Worcestershire still have a little bit more room for manoeuvre, despite suffering a first home defeat against Lancashire Lightning last Sunday. 

The return meeting began badly for the Rapids when Richard Oliver, having cracked Clarke's first ball to the boundary, was bowled driving at the second, but Kohler-Cadmore belied his inexperience by taking the lead in a stand of 73 in eight overs with his captain Daryl Mitchell.

The youngster pulled Chris Wright for two sixes and cleared the rope again on the appearance of Ateeq Javid, but spin proved to be Warwickshire's strongest suit as seven overs from Javid and Jeetan Patel delivered wickets and economy.

Taking three wickets for 39, their first success - and a vital one - fell to Javid when Kohler-Cadmore, having been dropped on 15, sliced a catch to short third-man.

Mitchell, on 33, paddled a slower ball from Oliver Hannon-Dalby to backward square-leg and the innings could have misfired badly when Colin Munro and Alexei Kervezee - the former reverse sweeping, the latter finding deep midwicket - got out in five balls from Patel.

Having wobbled at 107 for five, Worcestershire kicked on again through Ross Whiteley and Ben Cox, with 34 not out from 25 balls, and Wright's unhappy evening ended with the last ball carted for six by Brett D'Oliveira.

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