Twenty20 finals day: Rose Bowl set for showdown
The Hampshire Royals, Nottinghamshire Outlaws, Somerset Sabres and Essex Eagles will meet at the Rose Bowl on Saturday to battle it out for the Friends Provident Twenty20 Cup.
Always the highlight of the domestic calendar, this cricket feast once again looks certain to match the hype with all four sides harbouring a wealth of home-grown and international talent.
The Rose Bowl will host the finals for the second time and with its ongoing strife to become a Test match arena, looks set to provide the perfect setting for what many are tipping to be the greatest finals day in the competition’s short history.
The Royals face the Eagles in the first semi-final of the day with all eyes on hosts Hampshire and their young side. Hampshire have gambled on youth this summer, using no fewer than four products of their academy side - yet it has has more than paid off.
England under-19s James Vince and Danny Briggs have been key in taking Hampshire to their first finals day. Vince struck a mature 66 not out to take his side past Warwickshire in the quarter-finals and left arm spinner Danny Briggs has 27 wickets in the competition - but more impressively at an economy rate of just 6.54.
Jimmy Adams has resurrected his wavering career this summer and is the tournament’s leading run scorer with no fewer than 600 runs and will be key if Hampshire are to win their first t20 cup.
Standing in his way could be Pakistani leg spinner Danish Kaneria. Having been dropped by his national team it appears the cult hero is set to slot into the side for finals day. Seamer Chris Wright is Essex’s leading wicket taker but his high economy rate has long been a problem throughout his career.
However, Ravi Bopara has notched up 471 runs and be looking to fire on finals day in a push to show the England selectors he can perform on the big stage. There could also be a return for Ryan Ten Doeschate, whose prolific tournament had been put on hold due to a calf injury.
The Eagles will also be able to call on Dwayne Bravo after securing his services specifically for the finals.
Somerset and Nottinghamshire have been the two sides to impress in the group stages with dominant performances. It is easy to be over-awed by Somerset’s star studded batting line-up, however they owe much of their success to their under-valued bowling attack.
In Alfonso Thomas the Sabres have the most consistent t20 bowler in recent domestic history. This season he has the most wickets with 31 but most remarkable is his economy rate of just 6.24.
Thomas opens with the new ball and always bowls at the death for Somerset. And playing half of his matches at the notoriously small ground in Taunton makes these statistics all the more impressive.
Murali Karthik, who won the trophy with Middlesex at the Rose Bowl, provides a top class spin option to captain Marcus Trescothick.
Captain Trescothick gives fire power at the top of the order with a strike rate in excess of 150 and along with Kieron Pollard -the big hitting West Indian -the Sabres have one of the most promising all rounders in international cricket.
David Hussey, captain of the Outlaws for the t20 campaign, has well and truly led from the front. The Australian boasts the tournament’s highest average and has hit more sixes than any other player with 19 maximums.
The Nottinghamshire bowling unit is more than up to the challenge posed by Somerset. England have released both Graeme Swann and Stuart Broad, with both are available to play at the Rose Bowl.
These names, added to an already fruitful list of seamers including Ryan Sidebottom and Dirk Nannes, ensures this semi final is set to provide thrilling battles between bat and ball.