It is now finally time for the business end of the English T20 season as the quarters are almost upon us. Whilst there were a couple of surprises, here and there, for the most part, it was merely the usual suspects who sailed through to the last eight this time around.
So let us now look at the match-ups for the quarter-finals and look at who is best placed to win the title this time around.
First quarterfinal: Surrey vs. Somerset at The Oval (15:15 GMT, Aug 6 2013)
Surrey's progress to the quarters was possible only because of their bowling line-up, which includes the impressive Jade Dernbach, canny Azhar Mahmood and experienced Zander de Bruyn, who have shown time and again that they are very capable of defending any total.
The trio will be crucial if Surrey are to get past Somerset, who have the tournament’s leading run scorer Craig Kieswetter and arguably one of the finest batting lineups in the tournament.
Although home advantage isn’t likely to tilt the scales by too much, the experience of the Somerset players will definitely be a key factor in this clash.
After all, this is Somerset fifth consecutive visit to the knockout stage whilst for Surrey this is the first time they have qualified for the knockouts since 2006, so some big game jitters are to be expected.
Key players: Azhar Mahmood (Surrey) Craig Kieswetter (Somerset)
Second quarterfinal: Northamptonshire vs. Durham at Northampton (18:10 GMT, Aug 6 2013)
After years of underachievement and incompetence, Durham’s entry into the quarters might surprise a few, but not many would begrudge them that, especially on the back of some fine batting performances from Phil Mustard and Ben Stokes.
And they will need both of them to click, if they are to have any chance against Mohammad Azharullah, the leading wicket taker so far and without a doubt, the find of the tournament.
Whilst Northants cruised into the quarters, Durham only just made it, as one of the best two third-placed teams.
With momentum on their side and backed by a feisty bowling attack, it would be a huge surprise if the Northants don’t make it to the semis, especially with home advantage.
Key players: Mohammad Azharullah (Northants) Ben Stokes (Durham)
Third quarterfinal: Hampshire vs. Lancashire at Ageas Bowl (18:10 GMT, Aug 7 2013)
Defending champions Hampshire blasted their way through the group stage having lost just a single game.
Some splendid batting from the explosive Michael Carberry and the experienced Neil McKenzie ensures they will start as favourites at the Ageas Bowl against a Lancashire side which has won only just half of their games so far.
The acquisition of Mitchell McClenaghan is proving to be the difference for Lancs this time around, and they will need him to be at his best to stop the strong Hampshire batting line up.
His matchup with Carberry will go a long way towards deciding the outcome of this encounter.
Key Players: Michael Carberry (Hampshire) Mitchell McClenaghan (Lancashire)
Fourth quarterfinal: Nottinghamshire vs. Essex at Trent Bridge (18:10 GMT, Aug 8 2013)
The final quarterfinal sees two sides with contrasting campaigns so far. Whilst the Outlaws have been on a roll thanks to the brilliant opening pair of Michael Lumb and Alex Hales and sailed through to the quarters, Essex have just managed to sneak in by the skin of their teeth, having won five and lost four of their 10 games.
Whilst this might indicate that, on paper, there can only be one winner in this contest, the Notts Outlaws don’t have it all their way.
In Reece Topley, Essex have found a genuine fast bowler, who has been on fire so far, taking 19 wickets at a staggering strike rate of just 9.4.
With Hamish Rutherford, Owais Shah, Ryan ten Doeschate amidst their ranks, they will certainly look to take advantage of a Notts side, who look a little light in the bowling department.
All of which means that, if both sides click, this has all the makings of an epic encounter.
Key players: Alex Hales (Notts) Reece Topley (Essex)
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