Birmingham 155 for 1 (Chopra 97*) beat Durham 154 for 9 (Collingwood 40*, Woakes 3-25) by nine wickets
Varun Chopra returned to the team in the most spectacular style with a brilliant unbeaten 97 to power Birmingham Bears to a nine-wicket NatWest T20 Blast win over Durham at Edgbaston. Selected for his first Blast game of the season after Sam Hain was laid low by food-poisoning, Chopra blasted 97 from 58 balls, with eight fours and five sixes, to thunder his team past a modest target with 14 balls to spare.
His explosive work meant Durham failed to build on their 66-run win over Nottinghamshire two days earlier. They managed only a below-par 154 for 9 on a good batting pitch, having found it hard going against an attack strengthened by the return of Chris Woakes and Rikki Clarke, who finished with a combined 8-1-50-5.
At 118 for 8 with three overs left, the visitors were in disarray before some late hitting from Paul Collingwood at least lifted them to respectability.
That's all it was. An opening stand of 94 in ten overs by Chopra and Ian Bell settled the game and Chopra saw the job through, narrowly failing to become only the second Birmingham player to score a NatWest T20 Blast ton.
After Durham were put in, Clarke soon made his presence felt with a wicket-maiden in his second over, Graham Clark falling to a brilliant catch by Josh Poysden at mid-on. Oliver Hannon-Dalby had already removed Mark Stoneman, who edged behind, and then held a sharp catch at short fine-leg off Clarke to oust Michael Richardson.
Phil Mustard's typically busy 22 off 20 balls ended when he lifted Woakes to Poysden at fine leg. Ryan Pringle cleared the ropes twice but was bowled by spinner Ateeq Javid's second ball and when Woakes returned to remove Paul Coughlin and Scott Borthwick in three balls, Durham badly needed some late impetus. Collingwood provided it with two sixes in the last over from Hannon-Dalby.
Chopra cancelled those out in no time, lifting Usman Arshad over the extra-cover fence twice in the bowler's first eight balls. Chopra and Bell had 50 on the board in 34 balls and the former continued to give spectators excitement and alarm in equal measure as he sent two more big hits into the crowd on his way to a scintillating 30-ball half-century.
Bell was bowled by Borthwick and thereafter it was just a question of whether the target was tall enough for Chopra to reach his ton. It wasn't, quite, but the former Essex opener had still given the crowd an innings to savour.