Warwickshire Bears are set to take on the Kent Spitfires this week at Edgbaston in the Royal London One Day cup semi-final, with a place in an historic Lord’s finals day awaits the victor.
Both sides faced stiff opposition in their quarter final ties, yet ultimately emerged victorious and comfortably in the end, and will both feel equally confident of reaching the final, which is to be held at Lord’s on September 20.
Bears overcome tricky away tie
The Bears faced arguably the tougher of the two knock out games with a trip down to ‘fortress Chelmsford’ to take on a very strong Essex side, whom they had earlier beaten in the quarter finals of the Natwest T20 Blast.
Fresh from their T20 finals day success the Bears were in confident mood and imperious form, which showed when they scored 271 from their 50 overs. Rikki Clarke top scored on 68, with Jonathan Trott just behind on 61.
In reply, despite a spirited effort by Jesse Ryder (90), Essex fell well short, thanks to some brave captaincy from Varun Chopra, and inspired bowling by Clarke.
Kent progress with relative ease
Kent on the other hand entertained Gloucestershire after performing so well in the group stages. As Did Warwickshire, Kent went about setting a total in front of their home fans at Canterbury.
ith the help of half centuries from Northeast and Cowdrey, a platform was set for the explosive Sam Billings as he hit 61 from just 36 balls.
Despite these knocks, Kent failed to bat their 50 overs and were only able to post 242. Gloucestershire’s reply started brightly, however Ben Harmison’s spell of 3 for 40 helped Kent scrape to a 24-run victory to keep their chances of a trophy alive.
Bears playing down quest for more silverware
Warwickshire will undoubtedly go into this semi-final tie as favourites, in what could be the most successful season in the clubs history since Dermot Reeve’s superstars of 94’ including Brian Lara, won a historic treble.
The Bears Coach Dougie Brown is keeping a lid on the hype, and said in an interview with The Telegraph, “We’ve pretty much banned the ‘T’ word. We are focusing on the small bits and if we do that the big bit looks after itself.
“I think we like to keep it in the here and now and getting a bit giddy about the end result can be dangerous. I would be quite happy if we keep doing what we are doing and not getting too blasé about the fact that we have just won a trophy.
"We know we are playing for a hell of a lot but we need to remember what has contributed to us getting to the position we are in”.
Trott return holds the key
Possibly the greatest influence on Warwickshire’s one day campaign, has been the return of the in-form ex-England batsmen Jonathan Trott.
Trott, who has had his fair share of difficulties, and criticisms this year has answered all of his critic’s as well as being an instant hit with fans on his return as a beloved ‘Bear’. Trott’s presence in the middle order has been priceless and irreplaceable scoring a total of 428 runs in his eight innings, scoring two centuries along the way.
An area where Warwickshire have been strong this season has been in the bowling department. Despite a number of injuries to key bowlers, The Bears still boast one the best bowling attacks on the country circuit. Overseas Kiwi international Jeetan Patel is the leading wicket taker in all formats this year in the domestic game, taking 92 wickets across all formats.
In the Royal London one day cup Patel leads the wicket tally for The Bears with 17, whilst Oliver Hannon-Dalby and Rikki Clarke have chipped in with 21 wickets between them. The Bears will also be able to call on test match international Boyd Rankin who, since his return to fitness has been in fine form and played a vital role in The Bears Natwest T20 triumph.
Key in defiant mood
Whilst Warwickshire will pose a massive test for Kent, captain Rob Key is un-phased by the draw. "Edgbaston is one of the great grounds to play at in England," skipper Rob Key told Sky Sports 2.
"They are good but so are Notts, so are Durham and when you get to the knockout phase then you face the best.
"I think we've got every chance." Kent prodigy Sam Billings was voted man of the match in Kent’s victory over Gloucestershire, and in his post match interview on sky sports, was asked for his opinion on if there were any teams he would like to avoid or to face in the semi-final draw? “at this stage of the contest if we want to win this competition, we have to win against the best, so yeah, we will take on anyone."
Billings on the rise
Billings has been with Kent since 2011, but has made a name for himself this year not only in the Royal London one day cup, but also in the Natwest T20 blast scoring his runs at a strike rate of 137.5. Billings continued this form into the 50 over format, and has been a key player in Kent’s success in this competition, scoring 418 runs with one century and four 50’s.
The most exciting aspect of Billing’s game may be the rate at which he scores his runs, and in this format has the best strike rate of any other batsmen in the competition, with a magnificent strike rate of 162.
Billing’s is not the only young English batsmen to be making noises at Kent. Both Sam Northeast and Fabian Cowdrey who have 375, and 295 runs respectively are leading the way for Kent in the batting department. If it is youth who are carrying Kent forward, then it is most definitely veterans who are leading the way with the ball.
Former Aussie international Doug Bollinger, along with County Cricket stalwart Mitch Claydon have taken 28 wickets between them, whilst Darren Steven’s and England Spin Bowler James Tredwell have backed up the opening pace duo with eight and seven wickets respectively.
Quite a clash on the cards
Kent’s challenge may be hindered by the lack of bowling options come Thursday afternoon, with James Tredwell away on England duty, and Doug Bollinger struggling with fitness. The Bears, in comparison should boast a full strength team, bar the absence of injured wicket keeper Tim Ambrose.
One thing is for sure, with all the exciting talent on show at one of England premier cricket grounds, this will be a semi-final not to be missed, kicking off at 2pm on Thursday September 4.