Birmingham Bears took a comfortable stride towards the NatWest T20 Blast quarter-finals when they thrashed Durham by eight wickets at Chester-le-Street.
Despite 53 off 37 balls from skipper Paul Coughlin, Durham could only set a modest target of 145-8 and the Bears’ young opening pair of Ed Pollock and Dominic Sibley launched a blistering reply with 51 off the first four overs. Victory was achieved with 5.1 overs to spare.
Swivel pulls produced two of left-hander Pollock’s four sixes as his superbly-timed strokes took him to 52 off 25 balls before he skied a catch to the wicketkeeper.
The closest Durham came to an early breakthrough was when Pollock, on 11, pulled Usman Arshad for what looked a certain six until Graham Clark leapt to palm the ball back in-field from above the rope.
Two overs later Pollock pulled Brydon Carse for a huge six behind square then cut the next ball crisply for four as 19 came off the over.
With 79 on the board when Pollock departed in the eighth over, the Bears were able to coast, although Colin de Grandomme joined in the barrage with two sixes off Paul Collingwood.
The New Zealand player became Ryan Pringle’s second victim when he drove to long-on before Sibley stepped across to lift Arshad behind square for six to reach 50 off 37 balls. He remained unbeaten on 51, made largely through orthodox strokes.
The contest was as good as over when, after choosing to bat on a pleasant afternoon, Durham subsided tamely to 30-4 in the sixth over.
Keaton Jennings was the first to go. AHe stroked the first ball of the match, from Olly Stone, to the extra cover boundary but he added only a single before lobbing Jeetan Patel’s second ball to short mid-wicket.
Three balls later Collingwood advanced to loft Patel over long-off for six, but then he aimed to smash Stone over mid-wicket and fell lbw.
Tom Latham spooned Stone gently to mid-off in the same over, then Clark made 12 before cracking a short ball from Oliver Hannon-Dalby straight to extra cover.
Coughlin hit three sixes in propelling the score from 68 after 12 overs to 110 after 15. Stuart Poynter’s unbeaten 36 off 30 balls further raised Durham’s spirits, only for Pollock and Sibley to dash them.