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Vitality Blast: Birmingham Bears battle with Essex for Finals Day spot at Edgbaston

Birmingham Bears' Vitality Blast quarter-final against Essex is live on Sky Sports Cricket from 6.55pm on Thursday, with Somerset vs Notts Outlaws at the same time on Friday; Lancashire Lightning vs Surrey and Hampshire Hawks vs Worcestershire Rapids are the other ties

Jake Lintott, Birmingham Bears (PA Images)
Image: Jake Lintott will be a key player for Birmingham Bears against Essex

While the drama of Vitality Blast Finals Day always unfolds on their home turf at Edgbaston, it’s now six years since Birmingham Bears secured an invite to the party.

Having fallen at the quarter-final hurdle in each of the last two seasons, the Bears are aiming to make it third time lucky when they host Essex in the first of the knockout ties on Thursday, live on Sky Sports Cricket from 6.30pm.

Live Vitality T20 Blast Cricket

Live Vitality T20 Blast Cricket

The live action then switches to Taunton, where Somerset face Notts Outlaws on Friday, while Lancashire Lightning meet Surrey and defending champions Hampshire Hawks take on Worcestershire Rapids in the other two quarter-finals.

So which four teams will make it to Edgbaston?

Birmingham v Essex

Birmingham boast plenty of experience, particularly in the spin department and, with young all-rounder Dan Mousley also making an impact on the tournament, they will be favourites after topping the North Group with six straight wins.

L-R: Birmingham Bears' Henry Brookes, Glenn Maxwell and Dominic Drakes celebrate a wicket (PA Images)
Image: Birmingham Bears finished their North Group campaign with six wins in a row

However, Essex came from nowhere to become Blast champions in 2019 and showed their tenacity again with a final-ball victory against Surrey to clinch a knockout place by the skin of their teeth.

Lancashire v Surrey

With Jos Buttler, Phil Salt and Liam Livingstone among their ranks, Lancashire possess a fearsome array of power hitters and will be determined to go one better than last year, when they lost out to Hampshire in the final.

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Phil Salt, Lancashire Lightning (PA Images)
Image: Phil Salt forms a formidable opening partnership for Lancashire Lightning with Jos Buttler

Surrey's form tailed off towards the end of the group stages but the presence of several proven white-ball performers such as Will Jacks, Laurie Evans and the Curran brothers means they cannot be discounted.

Somerset v Notts Outlaws

All-rounder Ben Green has been a surprise package in the Blast this year, taking 26 wickets, while wily New Zealand paceman Matt Henry backed him up with 23 to propel Somerset to the South Group summit.

The Outlaws should get runs on the board, with Alex Hales and Joe Clarke available to wield the willow - but they will surely miss the wicket-taking skill of left-arm quick Shaheen Shah Afridi, away on Pakistan duty.

James Vince, Hampshire Hawks, Vitality Blast (PA Images)
Image: Hampshire Hawks' James Vince is the Blast's leading run-scorer with 638

Hampshire v Worcestershire

It's been a stellar tournament for Hampshire's James Vince, who has amassed a whopping 638 runs at an average of 70 and is aiming to become the first captain to lift the Blast trophy in successive seasons.

But Rapids skipper Brett D'Oliveira - who played in the Worcestershire side that reached back to back finals in 2018 and 2019 - has led his side shrewdly and still has the key weapon of death bowling specialist Pat Brown at his disposal.

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