Twenty20 Finals Day
Birmingham, Hampshire, Lancashire and Surrey all in the shake-up for Edgbaston showpiece...
Last Updated: 21/08/14 11:04am
After 15 matches, Birmingham, Hampshire, Lancashire and Surrey have stayed alive in the most unpredictable format to reach Natwest T20 Blast Finals Day.
Below we assess the form of the 'Final Four' and pick out the men to watch from each side.
Captain: Paul Horton
Best finish: SF 2004, 2007, 2011
Sky Bet odds: 5/2
Lancashire booked their fifth ticket to Finals Day courtesy of a nervy one-run victory over Glamorgan in their rescheduled quarter-final encounter at Old Trafford.
The original fixture was abandoned due to wet weather in Manchester, however the teams reconvened the following day and Lancashire prevailed thanks to an inspired bowling display from Jordan Clark.
Glamorgan appeared to be cruising to their 138-run target when on 92-2, only for Clark to pick up four wickets, including a triple wicket-maiden, to see Lancashire through against the odds.
An impressive group campaign set-up the home quarter final, with the Red Rose winning 10 of their 14 round robin fixtures to top the North Group.
Lancashire will now be hoping their strength in depth can propel them to a first T20 title.
Seven batsmen have passed 50 in the tournament this season, with left-handers Tom Smith, Ashwell Prince and Usman Khawaja aiming to set an early platform for the likes of Karl Brown, Jos Buttler, Steven Croft and Clark to shoot from the hip down the order.
The bowling department has been depleted by the absence of overseas star Junaid Khan. His 19 wickets and frugal economy rate played a major part in Lancashire getting to this stage.
Star man: Steven Croft
Runs, wickets and dynamite in the field, Lancashire’s all-rounder leads from the front in every facet of the game. Lacs are also boosted by the availabilty of Buttler, who has been freed from Englad duty to keep wicket.
Captain: James Vince
Best finish: Winners 2010 & 2012
Sky Bet odds: 9/4
Back at Finals Day for a remarkable fifth successive year, Hampshire have established themselves as a formidable Twenty20 outfit in recent years.
Champions in 2010 and 2012 and runners up in between, the south coast side reached this year’s Edgbaston showpiece after overcoming Nottinghamshire in a high scoring quarter-final at Trent Bridge.
James Vince, captaining the side this season, was the star performer in Nottingham and forms half of an elegant opening partnership alongside Michael Carberry.
Both men have passed 50 on four occasions this term and were instrumental in helping Hampshire qualify from the highly-competitive South Group, albeit in the third spot.
Four wins from their opening five matches put Hampshire in a strong position to qualify but a late wobble saw them end with five defeats and nine wins, missing out on a top two finish by virtue of net run-rate.
The marquee signing of Glenn Maxwell proved a flop in the T20 format. The Australia all-rounder, dubbed ‘The Big Show’ after being signed for one million dollars in the 2013 IPL franchise, mustered just 127 runs in 11 innings and has now left the UK to join up with the Australia.
The loan recruit of Owais Shah, however, has proved a shrewd piece of business. The veteran right-hander averages 74.50 and could be in line to replace Maxwell after missing out against Notts.
Star man: James Vince
Seemingly destined for England honours, 23-year-old Vince proved he is a man for the big stage with a career-best unbeaten 93 against Notts to help his team reach Finals Day. Has taken many a county attack apart this summer.
Captain: Gary Wilson
Best finish: Winners 2003
Sky Bet odds: 2/1
Favourites to lift the trophy ahead of Finals Day, Surrey certainly have the individual superstars capable of powering them to a first title since the inaugural 2003 campaign.
Back then Ian Ward and Nick Knight were rivals in the Surrey v Warwickshire final, but this year they will be on the same team as part of the Sky Sports live coverage.
Tillakaratne Dilshan has been recalled by Sri Lanka, an undoubted blow, however in Jason Roy and Kevin Pietersen Surrey still have two batting match-winners in their ranks.
With 619 runs and eight half-centuries already to his name, Roy leads the way at the top of the runscorers charts and has been strongly backed for England honours, not least by team-mate Pietersen.
Surrey’s route to the semi-finals was a smooth one; Nine wins in the South Group set up a home quarter-final with Worcestershire, who pushed their hosts harder than many may have expected before falling to a three-wicket defeat.
In the bowling department, pace bowler Matt Dunn has proved a revelation in the shortest format with 12 wickets at an average of 14.33, while veterans Azhar Mahmood and Gareth Batty will also be instrumental to Surrey’s title hopes.
A stage Pietersen, whose highest score is 39 in 11 innings, will surely thrive upon.
Star man: Jason Roy
Like Vince, it surely won't be long before Roy makes his mark in an England jersey. The South Africa-born right-hander is an explosive hitter at the top of the order and will look to lay the foundation for Pietersen and co to tee off down the order.
Captain: Varun Chopra
Best finish: RU 2003
Sky Bet odds: 4/1
After scraping through the Group Stages by the skin of their teeth and then conquering in-form Essex at Chelmsford, the Bears will now be hoping to pull off a fairytale T20 title triumph in front of their home fans.
The ‘Edgbaston effect’ should certainly buoy the West Midlanders, who have been given the green light by England to field Ian Bell and Chris Woakes in their XI.
You get the feeling Birmingham are destined to go all the way given the dramatic way they reached the knockout stages.
Needing to beat Leicestershire in the final group game and hope Yorkshire slipped up at home to Notts, the Bears did their bit and the Outlaws spectacularly chased down 201 to reduce Headingley to silence.
It was a topsy-turvy campaign for the renamed Birmingham Bears, who lost four successive matches to leave themselves in last chance saloon for the remaining three, all of which they won.
They showed nerves of steel in the quarter-finals, too. Tasked with taking on Essex, who had won 10 matches to top the South Group, in the quarters, Birmingham racked up 197-2 and limited the Eagles to 178-5.
Opening batsman Varun Chopra has been key to Birmingham’s run with five 50s at 42.91, while Jeetan Patel (24) needs two more wickets to become the leading wicket-taker in this year’s competition.
Key man: Varun Chopra
With 472 runs to his name, Chopra is comfortable Birmingham’s top runscorer and his unbeaten 86 was pivotal in Birmingham’s quarter-final win over Essex. Captains the side despite the availability of Bell.