FLt20 quarter-finals: Hampshire and Notts will be tough to beat
Paul Allott gives his take on who'll be joining Surrey and Northants on Friends Life t20 Finals Day!
Last Updated: 07/08/13 12:10pm
After Tuesday's dramatic events at The Oval and Wantage Road, attention switches to the two remaining Sky Live quarter-finals - and both look potential crackers.
To preview the action we enlisted the help of Cricket Writers on TV presenter and former England and Lancashire seamer Paul Allott...
Hampshire v Lancashire: 7pm, Wed, Sky Sports Ashes
Defending champions Hampshire once again look the team to beat. They look very, very strong in all departments and have only lost to Kent so far this season - and I'm not quite sure how they managed that! They are a very attacking side - every batsman goes on the offensive from ball one but not necessarily in the same way. James Vince (196 runs) gives it a good smack and Michael Carberry (396 runs at 49.50) is in the form of his life. The lynchpin, though, is Neil McKenzie (296 runs at 148) who holds the innings together. You don't think he's scoring but you look at the scoreboard and suddenly realise that he's got 30 off 20 balls thanks to his deft manipulation and fine touches. He tends to score off virtually every ball that he faces and he'll put the bad ball away, too. Hampshire's order is bolstered by the likes of Sean Ervine (185 runs), Jimmy Adams (166 runs), Dimitri Mascarenhas and Liam Dawson - players who can come in and hit the ball - so there's very little respite for the bowling team. On the bowling front I like the left-armer Chris Wood, who proved his worth with a fantastic over in last year's final that helped Hampshire win the game. Danny Briggs doesn't turn it an awful lot but for a spinner he bowls a heavy ball, while Dawson will toss it up and Mascarenhas remains a master of deception. Hampshire have all bases covered and that makes them a formidable unit. They don't seem to care if the bat or bowl first, although on the whole I think they prepare to chase.
So Lancashire have got a huge task ahead of them. Having said that I think that Lancashire have been the most dynamic fielding side I've seen in Twenty20 this year - they are extraordinary in the field. A catch taken by Steven Croft, diving forward at long-on to remove Yorkshire's Gary Ballance, sticks in my mind in particular. Stephen Moore (294 runs) always goes at it at the top of the order, in Ashwell Prince they've got a very experienced Kolpak player and Simon Katich (265 runs) is playing as well as he's ever played. Lancashire have got a pretty useful team of all-rounders, too. Both sides will have to play well to win the match and Lancashire are capable of springing a surprise, particularly if Mitch McClenaghan (17 wickets) fires. He's a major threat because he bowls at pace and doesn't get flustered if he gets hit. Left-arm bowlers remain worth their weight in gold in Twenty20 cricket because they offer a different line of attack.
Paul's prediction: I'd love to see Lancashire go through to Finals Day but if Hampshire play to their potential this could be a match too far for them.
Nottinghamshire v Essex: 7pm, Thu, Sky Sports Ashes
Nottinghamshire were up there alongside Hampshire as one of the best two teams in the group stages and they will be favourites for this one, but Essex have got a team of top-notch all-rounders and can't be written off. Essex haven't performed as consistently as they would have liked this season but any side that has players of the calibre of Owais Shah (311 runs at 51.83), Ryan ten Doeschate (193 runs) and Ravi Bopara (149 runs) has to be taken seriously. Those players can win games off their own bat, while in Reece Topley (19 wickets) they have one of the standout seamers so far. Plus they have Hamish Rutherford (258), who has developed into a more than useful international opening batsman; he strikes a hard ball and loves playing the shorter form of the game and, as an uncompromising attacker, is exactly the type of player any side would love to have at the top of the order.
I'd say that bowling is Nottinghamshire's weaker suit - Samit Patel leads the way with 14 wickets; they are okay as a unit but no-one particularly stands out. They should still start with the upper hand at Trent Bridge, though. I like the way that Michael Lumb (311 runs at 31.10) plays; he's not prepossessing, he just goes out there and hits the ball, while James Taylor is a great finisher and Patel remains a super one-day player at county level. You shouldn't forget Alex Hales (334 runs) or David Hussey (237 runs) either - both quality players in their own right.
Paul's prediction: Essex are more than capable of winning this on their day but Notts are favourites for a reason and I've got to back them for this one.