Eight counties already have their eyes fixed on Finals Day ahead of the Natwest T20 Blast quarter-finals.
Lancashire vs. Glamorgan
Just a couple of years ago, Lancashire would have been overwhelming favourites for this tie, but Glamorgan have come into form at a perfect time. They secured their place in the last eight with a resounding eight-wicket victory over Gloucestershire, though their run in the group stage was far from faultless. Toby Radford, coach of the Welsh side, has instructed his troops to play without fear despite the daunting task ahead of them.
As for Lancashire, they will be feeling confident nonetheless, having finished top of the North Group. However, if they are to make the semi-finals, they will have to do it without Andrew Flintoff, ruled out through injury. Their other two stars, James Anderson and Jos Buttler, are away on England duty.
Surrey vs. Worcestershire
The two sides drew in their last outing in the County Championship. A certain Moeen Ali starred in that game, but although Worcestershire will be weakened, they have lost just one out of their last six matches.
Shaaiq Choudry is one to watch for the Rapids, shining with bat and ball in a number of recent games. Kevin Pietersen will naturally be the focus of Surrey’s batting order once again, though he has failed to hit any particularly big scores in the competition so far.
Surrey were perhaps fortunate to make the last eight in spite of a 21-run defeat by Kent.
Essex vs. Birmingham
Likewise, Essex will be far from favourites as they go up against the Birmingham Bears. The Eagles lost their last three matches in the group stage, falling short to Sussex, Hampshire, and Gloucestershire. Paul Grayson’s men were forced to rely on their earlier results, and will be hoping to rekindle that form in time for the knock-out stage.
Birmingham, on the other hand, finished strongly, beating Leicestershire, Yorkshire, and Worcestershire. They have also won two out of three of their games in the Royal London One-Day Cup.
Nottinghamshire vs. Hampshire
Notts and Hants will round off the weekend with a tie at Trent Bridge, with the added advantage of already knowing the other teams in the semi-final draw.
The home side have impressed in all competitions this season, with their strong squad attracting envy across the board. Division Two based Hampshire will cause a major upset if they can topple Notts, who are chasing the County Championship title. Notts can boast Alex Hales, Samit Patel, and RIki Wessels, making them formidable opponents. It is fair to say Hants were inconsistent during the groups, but they will surely be spurred on by the incentive of Finals Day.