The Key battles
Ian Ward looks ahead to the Friends Provident Trophy Final between Essex and Kent at Lord's.
Last Updated: 15/08/08 3:01pm
Essex coach Paul Grayson has not been happy that his side have to play the final of the Friends Provident Trophy a day after finishing a four-day game. This always tends to happen doesn't it?
It happened in the run-up to the Twenty20 finals - one side played the day before and another had a week off.
It is just the perennial problem with the scheduling of English cricket due to the sheer volume of games that have to be played. I am not sure how they are going to rectify that. Bob Willis and Nick Knight have been saying for years that they should compartmentalise when one day cricket is played so that all sides have the proper time to prepare, rest and get ready for a game.
There is not much bigger than a Friends Provident Final at Lord's for English cricket and this is what county cricket is all about. It is a shame that the sides that meet in the final do not have enough time to prepare.
Will it affect Essex? Well there are two ways of thinking about it. One, well you get four days off to focus solely on that one game. Two, you are playing cricket and you roll into the next game and keep the momentum going, which English cricketers by the very nature of the way things are set up are good at doing.
I have sympathy for all the county cricketers as the work load is high and sometimes they do not have enough time to prepare.
Familiarity breeds no contempt
Both sides are very good one day sides. I picked Kent at the start of the season to do well, they did not manage to retain their Twenty20 crown but they played excellent cricket and have a really nice balance to the side.
Essex have been inspired, certainly by the performances of Graham Napier and of course Ravinder Bopara who scored that double hundred in the quarter-finals of the Friends.
Both sides play some lovely cricket and they seem to have played a lot of cricket against each other this season. They know each other's strengths and will be looking at working on each other's weaknesses. It promises to be a very good game.
At the moment Kent are going beautifully at the top of the order with Robert Key and Joe Denly.
Both are very talented and have a nice feel for the ball. They also compliment each other very well. This is going to be a key partnership and Essex will have to break them up early on. I know it is an obvious thing to say, but early wickets with the new ball will be crucial. Then there is Kent veteran Martin van Jaarsveld who has had a ball with the bat. Essex will have to get through these guys as quickly as possible.
Beware the big hitters
If Kent get a platform going down the order they have players like Azhar Mahmood, Yasir Arafat, Ryan McLaren and Geraint Jones who are real power hitters. So if Kent are launching their assault from a position of strength in other words Key and Denly have got them off to a good start, then watch out Essex.
It will be interesting in that middle period how Danish Kaneria and James Middlebrook bowl at the likes of Mahmood, McLaren and Jones. It should be a fascinating passage of play, especially if Kent have got off to a decent start.
How will the two spinners deal with some of the big hitters? Kaneria is a world class leg spinner, a bit of a mystery spinner and that for me is going to be very interesting battle. On the other side how do Kent go about dealing with Napier and Bopara who have had fabulous seasons in one day cricket?
The Foster factor
The two wicket keepers are also going to play an important role. I know for a fact that Geraint Jones still harbours England aspirations while James Foster is keeping wicket as well as anybody around at the moment. You could argue that Foster is the in-form keeper in this country.
Foster is a big player for Essex with his ability to stand up to the seamers at the stumps. He has missed virtually nothing since we have been watching him and we have covered Essex quite extensively this summer.
If people cast their minds back to when Gloucestershire dominated the one day game, the one key component for them was Jack Russell. Russell's ability to stand up and clean up everything up to the stumps off the seamers put pressure on the batsman by keeping them in their crease.
Foster is of that ilk and can do that. His keeping on its own could be a match winner. He adds so much to the fielding display and he sets the tone.
I picked Kent at the start of the year and I am going to stick with them. So far they have not let me down. They did not let me down at Twenty20 finals day as it was a wonderful final and they were beaten by a side who were fantastic on the day.
They are captained extremely well by Rob Key and they have a nice relaxed atmosphere. I just hope we get a nice day opposed to one full of rain interruptions. It will be really nice to have a proper show piece final.