Notts Outlaws went down by 18 runs to the Birmingham Bears in the NatWest T20 Blast match at Trent Bridge.

Set to score 157 to win, the home side got off to a pulsating start as the opening duo of Alex Hales and Michael Lumb put on 57 in just 5.2 overs.Both fell in quick succession and from then on, despite 28 from 32 deliveries from captain James Taylor, Notts lost wickets at regular intervals and finished on 138-7.

Birmingham posted 156 for five from their 20 overs, a significant recovery having been 89-5 in the 14th over. Samit Patel had de-railed their innings with figures of three for 26, before Laurie Evans and Ateeq Javid rallied with an unbroken stand of 67.

The Outlaws selected the same starting eleven that defeated Derbyshire Falcons a week earlier and had to field first, for the fourth match running, after Varun Chopra won the toss for the Bears.Chopra opened up for the visitors, alongside William Porterfield, and the pair took 9 from a Harry Gurney over that included two wides.

The bowler hit back at the start of the third. Porterfield (6) chipped to the leg side, only to find Samit Patel intercepting the ball with a well-judged running catch at midwicket.Jonathan Webb began brightly, twice deflecting Gurney to the fine leg fence but his hopes of a third boundary were blunted at the start of the next over as Taylor pulled of a stunning stop at point, leaping high to save four runs.Webb (14) then had another attempt to punch Ajmal Shahzad through the same region but Taylor was again too good, pulling off an excellent sharp catch.

Tim Ambrose joined his captain but the stand was quickly broken by Samit Patel. The slow left-armer’s first delivery was punched by Chopra (10) straight into the waiting hands of Taylor, now at extra cover.Patel got a second when Ambrose (13) tried an extravagant slog but could only pick out Alex Hales at deep midwicket.

Pakistan’s Shoaib Malik showed his pedigree by swiftly moving to 29 (from 23 balls) but then fell to a contender for catch of the season.Drilling Patel towards the long off boundary for a flat six, the batsman could justifyingly feel cheated as Riki Wessels took off and completed an incredible catch.

The Bears could understandably feel a little deflated at losing one of their overseas stars in that manner and limped to 100 after 15.2 overs.Laurie Evans and Ateeq Javid fought back valiantly. Evans hit Sam Wood for twenty in one over, with 3 consecutive fours and the first maximum of the night, all coming during the spinners’ second over.Despite a brilliant piece of work on the boundary by Andy Carter, the two batsmen sped to a fifty stand in exactly 24 deliveries, as they took the fight to the Outlaws.

Their partnership remained intact and eventually realised an undefeated 67, with Evans ending on 45 not out and Javid 26 not out.Notts’ chase began quietly but then Michael Lumb hit Chris Wright for three boundaries in the third over. Hales had barely faced a ball before pulling Boyd Rankin for consecutive sixes (one a slight miscue high over the ‘keeper), followed by back-to-back fours.

His lusty hitting had taken him past 3,000 runs in T20 cricket.Recordo Gordon couldn’t halt the cavalry charge, starting with a no-ball (for height) that Lumb smacked to the advertising boards.

The same fifth over saw the fifty (29 balls) come up, as Hales reached on the full to drive through the off side.Malik was chopped to the point boundary by Hales (30) but exacted swift revenge by bowling the England opener in the next, after he came charging and was beaten by the flight.

Two balls later Lumb (24) followed his team-mate back, adjudged lbw to the off spinner as he missed an attempted pull.Samit Patel (5) became the third batsman to fall to spin, as he worked Javid into the hands of Jeetan Patel at backward point.

Taylor, innovative and workmanlike, running like a whippet, ensured the run-rate didn’t drop and found a like-minded spirit in Wessels. Both on a high, no doubt, after their efforts in the field, worked the bowling around and punished anything short or with width.

The end of the 13th over brought and unexpected – and unwanted delay – as three male streakers ran from the William Clarke Stand across the square, past the startled players and made their exits behind the Larwood And Voce Stand.Whether Wessels (15) lost concentration or not, is unclear but he perished in the next over, skying Rankin out to Webb on the midwicket fence.With 53 needed from 29 balls Chris Read (2) flashed hard at Wright and was caught behind by Ambrose, bringing out Steven Mullaney to join his captain.Gordon’s comeback saw them both off.

Mullaney (4) lifting to mid off and then Taylor (28) bowled two balls later, leaving 44 still required from only 19 deliveriesShahzad (9 not out) and Wood (13 not out) tried to bring Notts close but 28 were still needed from the last over and Wright is too good a bowler to allow that to happen.