Big match preview: Friends Life t20 Finals Day

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The 2013 Friends Life t20 reaches its climax on Saturday, following an action-packed two months of cricket that have been enjoyed by the competition’s highest crowds for five years.

Defending champions Hampshire Royals, Surrey, Northants Steelbacks and Essex Eagles are set to battle it out to be crowned this year’s champions on Finals Day at Edgbaston.

Fans have flocked to county grounds up and down the country to enjoy explosive cricket in the sunshine, with average attendances during the group stages up an impressive 76% on 2012.

Highlights included five sold-out local derbies on 5 July, with a massive crowd of nearly 27,000 watching Surrey take on the Middlesex Panthers at Lord’s and a first ever t20 sell-out of Derbyshire’s County Ground for the match with Notts Outlaws in July. In London alone, almost 145,000 fans attended Friends Life t20 group stage matches.

ECB Chief Executive David Collier, said “This season’s Friends Life t20 has proved a real success during the summer of cricket, and it’s been wonderful to see fans of all ages enjoying our shortest and most explosive format.

"It proves there’s a great appetite for the game and having engaged in the largest ever consultation programme with supporters, we shall now schedule the majority of matches on Friday evenings in 2014 to further build on this very positive momentum .”

On the pitch, reigning champions Hampshire Royals were the form team of this year’s group stage, and made it to Edgbaston thanks to a thrilling last ball victory over Lancashire Lightning. The Royalsare aiming tobecome the first county to retain the trophy, which would give retiring captain Dimitri Mascarenhas a fitting send-off.

Surrey, having denied Somerset a fifth straight Finals Day appearance, are aiming to halt the Royals’ charge. Winners of the inaugural competition in 2003, they hope that they can celebrate the 10th anniversary of t20 with victory at their first Finals Day since 2006.

On the other side of the draw, Northants Steelbacks take on Essex Eagles, with both sides aiming for their first ever t20 title. The Steelbacks, who topped the Midlands, Wales & West Group, overcame the Durham Dynamos in the quarter-finals, aided by a quick-fire half-century from Australian star Cameron White.

In becoming the third team from the South Group to make it to Finals day, the Eagles had a stunning hat-trick from pace bowler Shaun Tait to thank as they held off the challenge of Notts Outlaws in their quarter-final.

www.edgbaston.comA small amount of tickets remain for the big day, following a return from the semi-finalist's allocation. These are available from or the 24-hour ticket hotline on 0844 847 1902. without tickets can still follow the actionon Sky Sports Ashes HD from 10.30am or on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra from 11.00am, and can also visit for the latest tournament information.

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