The South Group, similarly to the North Group, is extremely tight at this stage in the competition, which means every game is important for all the teams involved.
Here GMS contributor Richard Grainger previews the upcoming games in a crucial week six of the T20 Blast.
South Group preview
Middlesex are involved in a double header this week in their search for that elusive first victory. Wednesday sees the Panthers take on Somerset in a game they must look to win to get their season back on track. Somerset have been inconsistent this season, with three wins from their first six games, and will know that a victory will probably place them in the top half of the group within touching distance of those above them.
Last weekend saw them achieve back-to-back victories over Sussex, by 34 runs, and Hampshire, by a nail-biting one run at Taunton, so they head into this game in good form and clear favourites to achieve a win. Their Friday night game will be a different proposition as they face pace-setters Essex who have won five out of their six games so far.
Last time out Essex comprehensively beat Gloucestershire by eight wickets thanks to a fantastic 66 from just 39 balls by Ravi Bopara and they will hope to continue this form at Chelmsford on Friday night. Bopara is in great form after hitting 81 from 44 balls in his previous game which gave the Chelmsford side victory over Kent.
Hampshire, who are one of the favourites for the T20 Blast title this season, face
Gloucestershire at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton. Hampshire have found a real winning combination this season, particularly at home, where they are almost unbeatable. They will hope to put behind them their one run defeat to Somerset last time out at Taunton and with the likes of James Vince and Danny Briggs in their side they will have every confidence in doing so.
Gloucestershire meanwhile will want to start climbing the table. Having been deducted points for an inferior pitch they currently sit second from bottom with only winless Middlesex below them.
Meanwhile Kent Spitfires and Sussex Sharks will fight it out at Canterbury with the visitors hoping to recover from a disastrous weekend in week five. The Sharks were defeated by Surrey last Friday, by a crushing 10 wickets, and then defeated on Sunday by Somerset at Arundel Castle. A victory will put them back in contention but the Spitfires, with Aussie Doug Bollinger in their ranks, will themselves be focusing on a victory that will put pressure on the top sides. Their last outing was a dramatic tied game against Glamorgan in Cardiff but they will want to go one better this time.
Glamorgan, after the aforementioned tie, will want to break into the top two positions this week as they currently sit in third place in the South Group.
With Darren Sammy and potentially Michael Hogan, who is in fantastic form, in their side, they will be confident of victory over Surrey who are two points behind them in the table. Surrey will be looking to Kevin Pietersen, Hashim Amla and Jason Roy to spark them into life after an indifferent season so far. Their last game, a domineering ten wicket victory over Sussex Sharks, will give them huge confidence going into this game at Cardiff, not to mention their ten wicket victory over Derbyshire in the County Championship. The signs are good for the Kia Oval side as they appear to be recovering from losing former South African captain Graeme Smith to injury earlier in the season.
This week's South Group T20 Blast fixtures:
Wednesday 18 June
Middlesex Panthers v Somerset The Kia Oval, London
Friday 20 June
Essex Eagles v Middlesex Panthers - The Essex County Ground, Chelmsford
Hampshire v Gloucestershire - Ageas Bowl, Southampton
Kent Spitfires v Sussex Sharks - The Spitfire Ground, St. Lawrence, Canterbury
Glamorgan v Surrey - SWALEC Stadium, Cardiff
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