Can Somerset get over their County Championship heartbreak?
That's the big question going into Saturday's CB40 Final at Lord's, where Warwickshire await Marcus Trescothick's jaded troops.
There's nothing like a final at Lord's to get the juices flowing but after the agony of missing out on the Championship title to Nottinghamshire, it is going to be tough both mentally and physically for Somerset to hit the ground running.
Trescothick said afterwards that getting so close but not close enough to the trophy will live with his side for a long, long time - as will just missing out on this year's Twenty20 crown too.
But they can't afford to go into this match anything other than fully committed if they hope to beat an excellent Bears side. I'm sure they will be focused but my concern is whether they've got enough left in the tank. Their body language at Saturday lunchtime should tell us a lot.
Somerset's batting is outstanding; four players have hit centuries in the competition so far and Trescothick isn't even on the list!
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Warwickshire, conversely, will be delighted because they played well at Hampshire and have secured division one status for next year, so they should go into the game with more of a mental spring in their step.
Given the impressive manner in which both sides have qualified it should be a great final.
Somerset have played almost faultless 40-over cricket from the off, winning 10 of their 12 group games.
Their batting is outstanding; four players have hit centuries in the competition so far and Trescothick isn't even on the list!
Craig Kieswetter has the perfect opportunity on Saturday to give it a crack and remind everyone what England are missing.
The way he went about his business in the World Twenty20 was exceptional; whacking top-quality bowlers around the park takes some doing but he did it and did it phenomenally well.
Unfortunately for him - and Hampshire's Michael Lumb for that matter - he hasn't really kicked on this summer and scored the weight of runs that we expected but this is a great chance for him to get himself on the plane to Australia for the one-dayers.
I'm sure he's still very much in England's World Cup thoughts, not least because of where the competition is being played; you need people to smash it at the top of the order and take on the powerplay overs with the new ball on the sub-continent and he's got all of the shots.
We all know how good a batsman Trescothick is - but he gave us a timely reminder anyway by hitting 79 in the CB40 semi-final win over Essex - but what about James Hildreth and Jos Buttler?
Hildreth's stats are particularly staggering: he's scored 583 runs at an average of 72.87 to dwarf even Buttler's impressive return of 440 at 62.85. In many ways, their exploits have taken some of the attention away from two of Somerset's other class one-day performers - bowlers Alfonso Thomas and Murali Kartik.
Somerset are an exceptionally well-drilled side and their renaissance owes a lot to the ethos instilled by Justin Langer and Andy Hurry, the coach, and Trescothick has carried that on.
Hurry is a very unassuming guy; he's from the school of working very hard, then working that little bit harder. He's very much Somerset's unsung hero and if anyone deserves a trophy it is him.
His opposite number, Ashley Giles, has moulded Warwickshire into a clinical one-day unit which is now strengthened by two international batsmen - Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott, who are both in good nick.
Neil Carter is another important player for them; he seems to contribute all of the time, whether it's getting the innings off to a flying start or pitching in with the ball.
Warwickshire have done it tough this year. They've really had to fight for their survival in division one of the Championship and their survival hopes did look really bleak at one stage because they couldn't get any runs.
The captaincy has switched hands too; Ian Westwood started off, then Jim Troughton had a go in the Twenty20s and Bell has been in charge for the last two CB40 matches. I'll be staggered if he doesn't do so again on Saturday.
They didn't get to Twenty20 Finals Day despite playing some good cricket but, having secured their top-flight Championship status, it will be a very good year if they can walk off with the CB40 Trophy.
Much will hinge on the bowling of Carter, Imran Tahir and Chris Woakes. Tahir definitely has the X-factor as all quality spinners do and his head-to-head tussle with Kartik will be fascinating to watch.
Woakes is one of the best young bowlers around and it looks as though he is bowling well at the moment. If he can put in a good performance on Saturday, the selectors should definitely take note for when the time comes to pencil people in for Lions tours or academy spots.
One final thought: it's been a bizarre season in so many ways which has led to a thoroughly disjointed CB40 schedule, but what about the last few days?
They adjusted the timings for this week's Championship match at Durham so that Somerset could catch a flight down to London, but that's far from ideal when it comes to preparing for a final of this stature.
The players should have two or three days' preparation for games like this but unfortunately our domestic players don't get that luxury. International cricketers get time to prepare, to think, to put into perspective any success or disappointment they experience. They get time to work hard on specifics and time to come up with plans for players.
How much time has Chris Woakes had to think about where he's going to bowl to Trescothick or Kieswetter, or which areas are those batsmen going to try to target? How is Thomas going to bowl to Trott and Bell and what are they going to come up with to counter it?
It's a real shame because it means the final isn't being treated with the gravitas it deserves.
I've always been a big fan of 40-over cricket because there's a little bit of something in it for everyone. In many ways it's like an elongated Twenty20 - fast and entertaining - but there is also something for the purists because there is time to construct an innings or for bowlers to work a batsman out.
'Win the toss, win the final' used to be the accusation levelled at Lord's finals and that could be the case this year again even though it's a day-nighter.
It's fairly late in September to be playing day-night cricket and it will be interesting to see whether the ball zips around if it's a cold, dampish evening under lights. We might just have shifted the problem to the back end of the day.
Spare a thought for those hoping to catch the train back to the West Country too; if the game isn't finished by 8.30pm they may not get back until 3am and that journey will feel like an eternity if it turns out to be a trophy-less season.
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Geoff Single says...
Congratulations to the super bears you did us proud it as a Warwickshire fan of thirty years it gave me great pleasure to see the boys pull it off and to be able to have my two young boys their with me was amazing Coventry''s best batted like a god and imran bowled like one we''ll miss you immy you''ll always be a bear we arrived home in coventry at three in the morning tired but happy what a day!!!!!
Posted 00:55 20th September 2010
Paul Stanford says...
No wonder Lords this afternoon will be only half full. Whose crazy idea was it to have a day night game for Saturday final especially in mid September
Posted 13:04 18th September 2010
Stewart Mursell says...
I hope after Mr Wards comments Somerset win now as they deserve it
Posted 09:33 18th September 2010
Zak Jaan says...
It is a shame for ICC, England cricket team and especially British media that they made so many conspiracies by publishing the unproved match fixing scandals against Pakistani cricket team and also managed to exclude top class players such as Muhammad Asif,Muhammad Aamir and Salman Butt and made the Pakistani cricket team weaker so the England could have better chances to win the games. I am so happy that Pakistan won the 3rd ODI against England even with Pakistani reserved and irregular players.I think England need more practice to play with full and complete international teams.
Posted 02:03 18th September 2010
Roger Brade says...
Somerset supporters are not used to this position.But really what will the sequence end be? 20/20 scores tied somerset lose based on number of wickets lost. Championship tied on points somerset lose on number of victories So what will fate throw up in the CB40 a tie and some quirk of duckworth lewis denying somerset?
Posted 14:39 17th September 2010
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